My Life in Plants

Garden News (UK) - - Contents -

The first plant I ever grew

As a child I loved watch­ing tiny cress seeds ger­mi­nate and stand, proudly up­right, on damp kitchen pa­per on the win­dowsill. My first home was a shared mews house, sur­rounded by taller build­ings with no vis­i­ble green­ery with the ex­cep­tion of my mi­nus­cule bal­cony. The con­fined space, com­bined with the lack of view, suf­fo­cated me, so ev­ery avail­able space, shelf and work­top would be cov­ered with pots con­tain­ing any plant I could lay my hands on from the lo­cal gar­den cen­tre.

The plant that shaped the gar­dener I am to­day

This would be, with­out doubt, the del­i­cate na­tive English blue­bell, Hy­acinthoides non

scripta. As my gar­den­ing style is very much a nat­u­ral one, I adore be­ing among these tiny, vi­o­let-blue jew­els that car­pet an­cient wood­lands and verges, and al­ways in­tox­i­cate with their del­i­cate scent. I al­ways try to in­clude them when un­der­plant­ing a canopy of trees.

My favourite plant in the world

Trees, as they’re in­cred­i­bly im­por­tant be­ing the lungs of the earth, and as a species, we couldn’t ex­ist with­out them. I love their ar­chi­tec­tural qual­i­ties, the bark, leaf shapes, their an­cient forms and di­verse va­ri­ety. We have to cher­ish our trees and wood­lands and I’m pleased the govern­ment ap­pear to be ac­knowl­edg­ing their value by in­vest­ing in ur­ban plant­ing schemes and ini­tia­tives for wood­land cre­ation.

The plant that made me work hard­est

Ground elder, Ae­gopodium

poda­graria, has cost me a for­tune in time and money. I couldn’t be­gin to add up the hours I’ve spent at­tempt­ing to com­pletely rid flower beds of it for good. The rhi­zomes re­gen­er­ate from the tini­est frag­ment and flour­ish any­where, muscling in and chok­ing other plants.

The plant I’d like to grow more of when I have a gar­den again

Prob­a­bly an odd choice for most peo­ple, but I love the del­i­cate pale pink toad­flax, Li­naria

pur­purea ‘Canon Went’, which just keeps on flow­er­ing. It’s won­der­ful for at­tract­ing bees to the gar­den and self-seeds in tiny cracks in paving.

The plant I am in hu­man form

More than likely I’d be a cranes­bill gera­nium. I can look a bit strag­gly and unloved, too, at times, par­tic­u­larly my hair which frizzes so much and I of­ten look like I’ve walked out from un­der a large bush! On both counts noth­ing that a good ‘chop’ can’t put right though!

The plant that helped shape my life

My gar­den­ing ca­reer started fol­low­ing an in­vite from a wa­ter gar­den nurs­ery to de­sign and build a wa­ter gar­den at the 2002 RHS Hamp­ton Court Flower Show. Hav­ing had very lit­tle ex­pe­ri­ence of wa­ter plants and their habi­tat, I quickly be­gan to un­der­stand them and fell in love with any­thing wa­ter re­lated. If you know me you’ll know I’m hap­pi­est in my waders, partly sub­merged in a pond!

The plant I’d al­ways give as a gift

More than likely it would be the cat­mint, nepeta ‘Walker’s Low’. It keeps bloom­ing when chopped back, is at­trac­tive to bees, loves the com­pany of other plants, can be kept in a pot, planted out in a bor­der or used as low hedg­ing. It’s truly a multi-pur­pose plant. What more could you ask for?

De­signer Clau­dia has ap­pre­ci­ated the value of plants from an early age Clau­dia De Jong Oc­cu­pa­tion: Gar­den de­signer, con­sul­tant and writer Gar­den­ing type: They call me the ‘ro­man­tic’ gar­dener, at my hap­pi­est in waders!

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