Gar­den­ing tal­ent

Meet Char­lie Harpur the for­mer gar­den de­signer now com­plet­ing his Kew Diploma

Gardens Illustrated Magazine - - Contents - POR­TRAIT AN­DREW MONT­GOMERY

Ear­li­est gar­den­ing mem­ory My first rec­ol­lec­tion of gar­dens is as a five-year-old, ex­plor­ing the late, great Jill Cow­ley’s gar­den in Es­sex, which drew in vis­i­tors by the thou­sands for the Na­tional Gar­den Scheme. My grand­mother would make the cakes and I’d be left to en­joy get­ting lost in that space of won­der. First plant love Stum­bling upon a car­pet of jewel-like spring squill ( Scilla verna) while clam­ber­ing around Gurnard’s Head penin­sula in Corn­wall at a young age in­spired my first plant ob­ses­sion. Who has in­spired you? My grand­fa­ther Jerry Harpur started Harpur Gar­den Im­ages pho­tog­ra­phy busi­ness with my un­cle Mar­cus Harpur in 1992. Jerry would travel all over the world tak­ing beau­ti­ful pho­tographs of ex­otic spa­ces, and would re­count some fairly wild sto­ries to ac­com­pany them. Their tal­ent and cre­ativ­ity, as well as the ex­po­sure to land­scape and de­sign, helped prompt my ca­reer di­rec­tion. Mar­cus sadly passed away last year and I miss him dearly. Favourite plant­ing style I have be­come in­ter­ested in how na­tive plant species can be used to cre­ate eco­log­i­cally ben­e­fi­cial places. Your ca­reer path to hor­ti­cul­ture I trained as an ar­chi­tect prior to join­ing Tom Stu­art-Smith’s land­scape de­sign team. Tom kindly gave me more and more work with plants, as op­posed to the ar­chi­tec­tural side of de­sign. Af­ter a few years, I felt the need to gain some hands-on ex­pe­ri­ence, so I took time out to work as an in­tern at the Chelsea Physic Gar­den, be­fore ap­ply­ing for the Kew Diploma. Dream plant des­ti­na­tion I am a tree man, and the tem­per­ate rain­forests of the Pa­cific North-West pro­vide a great deal of day­dream­ing at the mo­ment. Diploma travel schol­ar­ships are com­ing up, so maybe dreams will be­come a re­al­ity. Un­sung plant hero Our na­tive trees are of­ten dis­missed, which is a real shame. The English oak Quer­cus robur for ex­am­ple; it’s rarely planted un­less in a large area of park­land. Plant more na­tive trees! Big­gest chal­lenge fac­ing gar­den­ers to­day Young peo­ple rarely seem to con­sider hor­ti­cul­ture be­cause they think it is un­der­paid and un­fash­ion­able. Am­bra Ed­wards’ re­cent book Head Gar­den­ers is on point, and quotes Mike Cal­nan of the Na­tional Trust say­ing: ‘It’s dif­fi­cult to imag­ine a class of peo­ple who have tremen­dous skills, who con­tribute so much to so­ci­ety, and who are so thor­oughly un­der­val­ued’. Con­tact harpur­gar­dens@gmail.com. In­sta­gram char­lie.harpur

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