Tuesday 5th October 2021
When I look back at how I got into gardening, I can see now that it was a gradual process which developed from my life circumstances. I had a baby at 18, so my education had to be put on hold, and I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life. My mum had always told me how important it was to choose your career wisely, as I would be doing it most of my life, and with her support I was able to test out a few options. Unfortunately none of these led to the glittering career I had in mind, and the conundrum of having to keep everything afloat remained.
I had always been an outdoor person, spending many hours of my childhood on my parents’ allotment, but my interest in gardening really started, like many others I suspect, when I bought my first house. For the first time I had this space that was mine to do what I wanted with – well, along with my 8 year old daughter and my loveable yet troubled, alcoholic father who I was also looking after. Many grand garden plans were made over cups of tea/wine! We were considering using the old shed as a workshop, as I was training to be a Silversmith (my latest endeavour), but then the garden took over…
It became the place where I wanted to be – away from the stresses and strains of an incredibly challenging period of my life. The shed filled up with forks, spades and hoes instead of jewellers’ pliers and soldering irons. I had a light bulb moment and realised that Horticulture encompassed all the things that were most important to me; being outside, active and creative – whilst nurturing the environment. This, in turn, nurtured my physical and mental health and I felt that I’d finally found my calling.
I trained as a Garden Designer, as my Dad thought that gardening would be too hard work to make a living from. Nevertheless, I also did the RHS Level 2 in Horticulture and was lucky to have a very skillful teacher called Tim Foster. His enthusiasm and good humour made for a very inspiring learning experience. As luck would have it, an old school friend took me on as a Junior Garden Designer just as she was about to enter a garden at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show. I went along to help with the plants but must admit that I spent more time nosing around the other stands as they were being built. It was a very exciting start to my new career.
During my first year, I was given the task of looking after some of the private gardens we had designed. I still can’t quite believe that I was let loose with my secateurs but it really helped to increase my gardening knowledge. I spent a lot of time looking up and learning about plants. It wasn’t always easy to tell which ones were the weeds, and there was A LOT of trial and error, but I started to become more adept.
The offers for gardening work started rolling in. I took a leap of faith setting up as a Self-Employed Gardener and, 10 years of hard work and an RHS Diploma later, ended up at Yeo Valley Organic Garden
– one of the most beautiful places you could imagine! I was promptly thrown in at the deep end and asked to look after the formal veg garden which was great fun, but also slightly terrifying as I had never grown veg on that scale before. It has to be productive, as we supply the Tea Room, staff canteen and some of our events, but also beautiful for the thousands of customers that come to view the garden.
Apart from the veg garden we have a glasshouse, cut flower garden, formal lawns and flower borders, wildflower meadows, woodland walks, a huge gravel garden and the birch grove – which I especially love. It has a simple but striking and majestic impact when you first walk in and a very calm atmosphere. Being situated on a working farm means the smell of cow poo can occasionally be a bit ripe, but it’s hard to complain when you work here! Plus, we also use the well rotted manure on our beds and borders so even the cows play their part in the garden. Gardening has always brought me joy and I can’t imagine ever stopping.
You can find out more about our Organic Garden and how to visit us by clicking here for the Organic Garden page.