My Work and How I Work

Winter Leaves

Gardener ‘First and Last’.

I first became fascinated by plants when I was 12 or 13. I invaded and took charge of my Dad’s garden, his pride and joy. But he seemed not to mind, and became re-invigorated with the garden as the landscape changed. It became a way that we could share things, and I was to learn a lot about gardening from him.

THE SUMMER GARDEN Plants Angela and Roberts Garden

Horticultural college and an intensive and old fashioned apprenticeship followed. From pot washing in January (frozen stiff) to soil sterilising  (sweating buckets) to propagation and so much more. Nowadays; and sadly, much has been lost or forgotten by new methods and ideas, some of which I have to say are a vast improvement on those of old. It was the kind of training that the great estate head gardeners went through. I was even put to work digging graves in the local cemetery to see if I had the stamina to keep up, I did.

I would not have missed it for the world. I was able to learn from people who had spent a lifetime working to discover things themselves. It showed me one thing, and I have never forgotten it – everything I learned and everything I know comes from an unbroken line of knowledge going back centuries.

westonhall12008And that is why I’m a gardener, and why I  spend time working in a garden or in gardens and the landscape.

The images (right and below) are of the same house and garden,  a place that inspired me some years ago, and where I was head gardener, they serve well to illustrate the standard that can be achieved within a good garden. The evolution of a garden is apparent on a daily basis to those who love it or who work in it. This is not achieved only by design, but good design is paramount. It is often not achieved by intent, it just happens, and often for the best. It happens most when people who work in the garden doing the everyday work needed to manage and maintain an intensive landscape bring about change. Any landscape that is managed as a garden or for people access has to be one of compromise. One where we try to work with nature and persuade nature to work on our side. Only by watching, being very patient and by being prepared to allow for the odd setback or problem can you learn how to garden well. Only by gentle means can you attract nature to share that landscape, and share the work of evolving a landscape with you.




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Formal or semi – formal landscapes challenge the gardener to a race. One where the landscape is forever trying to win and return to nature. My job and that of any good gardener is to balance the needs for management and maintenance with the need to care for a natural landscape, or what appears to be a natural landscape. Even in the landscape depicted in the images above there has to be room for nature, and as a gardener who has worked with wildlife for so many years, my job is to allow for that by gentle and as far as possible non – invasive care, and good planting.

Working with Natural landscapes

Past Projects and Landscapes.

SNOWDROPS SUNSHINE 010 Johnsons seeds COUNTRYSIDE GARDEN SCAN Johnsons seeds BIRD GARDEN SCAN Wetland pond london-wetland-centre The London Wetland Centre.

I did many early designs and gave advice for this important nature and wildlife area in London, beside the river Thames.  WWT then created their own design team to lead the development.

The Johnsons Seeds Booklets ‘The Countryside Garden’ and ‘The Bird Garden’ I designed, illustrated and wrote in partnership with my wife. They retailed through the R.S.P.B. and nursery and garden centre outlets.

JS COUNTRY SIDE GRD PLAN                   The Humber Marsh ReserveHUMBER MARSH NATURE RESERVE IMG_2806

Statue of Peter Scott by Nicola Godden outside...

Statue of Peter Scott by Nicola Godden outside the London Wetland Centre (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Sir Peter Scott was an inspirational man to so many, including me. He encouraged me to continue developing my love of painting and to spend time ‘just looking’ at nature and wildlife. He had a remarkable ability to absorb information and to listen and think about what he was told. He had the capacity to be interested in so many things. I learnt from him and today the garden and work in the garden is complemented by my love  for drawing and painting wildlife and painting flowers. I like to keep these as a record of the seasons and of plants that are perhaps only a memory.


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