This is the hardest bit to write… I am really just a passionate muddy-gloves-and-wellies gardener blessed with the gift of the gab. How I got to be doing what I do goes roughly as follows:
Like most of the gardeners I know, I came to it all rather late – in my thirties – when I acquired my first garden in west London. I supposed it helped that both my parents were avid gardeners, and that they were academic botanists. There was always someone to ask when things went wrong…
Before long, I had been roped in to teach basic gardening for the local Adult Education College – teaching is a skill all of its own and if you have it (which I discovered to my surprise that I had) you can teach anything. As my own gardening skill grew, I managed to keep one page ahead of my students, who seemed to lap up the basic ‘no question is too daft’ informal course that I devised, and loved the fact that we all visited each others gardens as part of the learning process.
Eventually I found myself opening my small garden in Wandsworth Common for the National Gardens Scheme. Soon, the press homed in on me, and I started teaching at home and giving advice informally on a one-to-one basis to enthusiastic but befogged gardeners.
And then, suddenly, out-of-the-blue, I was on telly – initially presenting two series of Gardening From Scratch on BBC2, and another BBC daytime series, Gardening Week.
After that, I took it all rather more seriously, moving out of London and taking on a two-acre untamed garden in Sussex, and writing a book based on the courses I was (still) finding time to teach, called Gardening In Your Nightie. The Telegraph Thorny Problems column came next, and I suddenly found I was, officially, a garden writer and lecturer.
Nowadays, as well as the weekly Thorny Problems page (an ecclectic mix of musings and agony-aunt-style garden advice), I now write other features for The Telegraph and for various magazines. My big-garden days sadly came to an end in 2006 when I was forced very suddenly to downsize. I have since created a pint-sized beautiful garden (still in East Sussex) that I absolutely love, proving that size isn’t everything.
I really enjoy meeting and talking to other gardeners – I find it very much feeds my writing. I regularly lecture at Coton Manor Gardening School in Northamptonshire, and if time allows I will travel around the country to talk to garden societies and take on speaking engagements for charities – particularly those related to gardening. In particular, lively Q and A sessions go down very well, and I have also put together a PowerPoint presentation with a general theme of the art and skill of ‘downsizing’ illustrated with pictures from some of the country’s best garden photographers. My fees are very negotiable (I am horrified at how much some ‘media’ people charge for their time) but travel expenses (from East Sussex) are not.
I am happy to welcome small private groups (of between 10 and 25 people ) during May and June (and possibly into the beginning of July). I will make a small charge for this and donate a proportion of money collected to my local village charity.
Contact me on firstname.lastname@example.org