Encouraged by my grandfather in North Yorkshire and my parents in Surrey, I started to grow as many plants as possible. Not long after, I borrowed some money to buy a second hand greenhouse and to pay for it, began growing bedding plants and vegetables to sell to my long suffering family.
After graduating with a degree in biology from Southampton University, I went to work for the world famous Nurserymen, Hilliers of Winchester. It was an amazing place, where everyone had a passion for plants and I was inspired by, and learnt from, many wonderful plantsmen including the Hillier family and also Roy Lancaster who was then curator of the Hillier arboretum. During this magical time, I was also lucky enough to help the team staging their famous gold medal winning plant displays at County Shows, RHS London shows as well as Chelsea.
After my happy years at Hilliers, I moved to gain broader knowledge of the horticultural industry and joined Fisons as Assistant in charge of Gro-bags! From there, I moved to Notcutts Garden Centres, where I was responsible for plant sales at all their centres.
Then I did a Jamie Oliver! I was asked to set up and manage a garden centre that would employ and train long term unemployed young people. With the help of the incredibly talented Adam Caplin, we opened Camden Garden Centre in North London in 1982. It was a huge gamble but fortunately it was immediately, and continues to this day to be, a commercial and social success. The award-winning centre was subsequently used as a model for similar schemes around the country including Fulham Palace Garden Centre, which I also helped establish.
In 1986, together with Adam, we established Alexandra Palace Garden Centre which, thanks to the great team we worked with, was an incredibly happy and lively place, famed for the range and quality of its plants. During this time in London, I began doing a spot of broadcasting – appearing on a monthly gardening phone in on the Michael Aspel show on Capital Radio, then with Pete Murray on L.B.C. My first television appearances were on ‘Going Live’ with Philip Schofield and Sarah Green where I devised fun gardening ideas for children, including Gordon the Gopher’s garden.
I enjoyed the TV and radio work so much that, when the garden centre was bought out, I eventually left full time employment in garden centres to try my luck at freelance writing and broadcasting. This also gave me more time for gardening! Since then I’ve written for the Radio Times, The Daily Telegraph, had my own page for many years in BBC Gardeners’ World Magazine and have been gardening correspondent for the News of the world (which was huge fun).
For ten amazing years, I presented Meridian T.V’s ‘Grass Roots’ which enabled me to meet thousands of gardeners every year in some wonderful gardens in the South of England and also to work with many of the leading media gardeners including Alan Titchmarsh, Charlie Dimmock, Toby Buckland and Monty Don. At the same time, I was asked to be the gardening expert on QVC, the UK’s leading shopping channel and fifteen years on, I’m still there and loving it.
Over the past 40 years, I’ve developed a cottage garden in Suffolk, a town garden in London, a family garden and then a contemporary garden in Bucks. When not gardening, I enjoy rugby (watching!) and photography.
I live in Buckinghamshire and am married with 3 children and they’re the reason for my keen interest in all forms of low maintenance gardening and football proof plants!