I began thinking about the time that triggered my love of container gardening. It was in the late seventies, and I was part of a team from Hillier Nurseries that were staging their famous Monument stand exhibit at the Chelsea Flower Show. We’d just unloaded four lorry loads of plants and all of them, from huge trees to tiny alpines, were grown in pots. Over the course of three days, we gradually moved each plant, the biggest first and the smallest last, into position to create the most wonderful garden full of colour, beauty and fragrance. I was absolutely thrilled when our container grown garden was then awarded the highest of honours, the coveted Royal Horticultural Society gold medal.
At the end of the show, the garden was dismantled and all the plants transported back to the nursery where they were carefully cared for over the season until the following Chelsea. When I helped unload the lorries that year, it was just like meeting old friends again. To my delight, there were the very same pot grown wisterias, azaleas and crab apple trees- all looking slightly bigger and even more beautiful.
Since then, I’ve been hooked on container gardening and have, over time, had so much pleasure from growing a huge range of different plants in containers, from stately cut-leaved Japanese maples to hanging baskets overflowing with colour. Every year, I grow masses of plants in pots, old favourites as well as new varieties and each year, I still get the most enormous pleasure from watching them flourish.
All of these happy memories lead me on to a conversation, around three years ago, with a buyer at QVC who asked me to write a gardening book. I immediately said yes, as long as it could be on container gardening. I had so much fun writing it. I based it on my experiences over the years , choose some stunning pictures from many of the world’s top garden photographers and asked world renowned gardeners including Claire Austin, Michael Marriott and Raymond Evison to contribute special sections on growing their favourite plants.
I self published the book, launched and sold it only through QVC, and much to my delight, it became the top selling gardening book in the UK in 2013. The only drawback was that I’d promised to include a personally signed bookmark in every copy sold on QVC. I had to sign 25,000 of them (for weeks on end, I was signing 500 a night!)
This autumn, QVC are selling the last of the print run of my book. It will be on sale from 8 November at its lowest price ever! They’ve also asked if I’d like to write another book. I’m tempted, but if I do, I’ll be starting signing those bookmarks straight away!