My Life in Plants

Garden News (UK) - - Contents -

The first plants I ever grew

I grew lots of small seedling trees when I was younger, as I was very in­ter­ested in bon­sai. I col­lected seeds on my trav­els and mar­velled at the way they grew. I man­aged to shape some amaz­ing bon­sai, my best be­ing a yew, Taxus bac­cata. I think from an early age my des­tiny lay in work­ing with trees!

The plant that shaped the gar­dener I am to­day

As part of my hor­ti­cul­tural jour­ney I spent my younger days work­ing in gar­den cen­tres and grew par­tic­u­larly fond of berberis. While prob­a­bly not an ob­vi­ous choice, I was amazed by the mas­sive vari­a­tion of dif­fer­ent species. I came across these plants many times dur­ing my ca­reer and al­ways felt they were un­der­ap­pre­ci­ated in terms of their beauty.

My favourite plant in the world

It has to be the welling­to­nia or gi­ant red­wood, which cap­tured my imag­i­na­tion since I first saw it. I re­mem­ber think­ing as a wee boy how mar­vel­lous this huge thing was, and so grand in its stature. I was amazed to learn it evolved its soft bark as a de­fence strat­egy, en­abling the tree to with­stand for­est fires.

The plant that’s made me work the hard­est

My big­gest chal­lenge was orig­i­nally in­tro­duced as an or­na­men­tal and dec­o­ra­tive, game cover. Sal­monberry, Rubus spectabilis, has been the stuff of night­mares with its per­ni­cious, thicket-form­ing habit pre­sent­ing the most in­cred­i­ble chal­lenges. In­tro­duced in the mid-19th cen­tury, this unas­sum­ing plant quickly be­came a wor­thy con­tender for the ‘bad idea’ prize!

The plant I would like to grow more

I’ve dab­bled in grow­ing fruit and veg, but hav­ing moved house a few times I felt I lost mo­men­tum pro­gress­ing my in­ter­est in them. My vi­sion over the next few years is to get a green­house and cus­tomise my lat­est gar­den to cater for all my gar­den­ing in­ter­ests. I feel grow­ing my own fruit and veg will be very re­ward­ing, and I like the self-suf­fi­ciency as­pect of it.

Plant I am in hu­man form

While not quite the stature of the gi­ant red­wood, I’d say I’m a steady ped­dler, fully ver­sa­tile and able to deal with all sce­nar­ios. I’m def­i­nitely like a rowan or sor­bus, which, much like my­self, is able to mul­ti­task beau­ti­fully within its en­vi­ron­ment.

The plant that helped to shape my life

From an early age I loved the won­der­ful scent of gera­ni­ums. I’m par­tic­u­larly fond of the in­door lemon-scented ver­sions and have vivid mem­o­ries of the ones that my dear old gran used to have.

The plant I would al­ways give away as a gift

I would tend to give a tree as a gift if I could, some­thing a wee bit un­usual. It would have to be a tree suited to the per­son con­cerned, their gar­den, avail­able space and cli­mate. It may pro­vide added in­ter­est, such as ‘wow’ au­tumn colour, maybe a Chi­nese rowan, Sor­bus com­mixta, or fan­tas­tic scent, such as the candy floss tree, Cer­cidi­phyl­lum japon­icum.

Grow­ing trees from seed en­thralled young Gra­ham Oc­cu­pa­tion: Hor­ti­cul­ture Cu­ra­tor at Dawyck Botanic Gar­den, a 65-acre wood­land gar­den, near Pee­bles, in the Scot­tish Bor­ders. Dawyck is home to some of Bri­tain’s old­est and tallest trees. Gar­den­ing type: Fully pre­pared for all the var­i­ous chal­lenges na­ture can im­pose! Gra­ham has de­voted his life to car­ing for trees Gra­ham Ste­wart

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