I lived at Sonoma for 30 years and spent 25 years creating my Enchanted Gardens from open farmland to the traditional cottage style gardens it became. I've always been a 'naturally gifted' gardener and intuitively know what plants are and what they require. I genuinely struggle to accept the loss of hardy specimen and deeply regret that small independent nurseries - often family run - have declined very dramatically, due to the pressures from large chains and groups. I believe far too many garden plants and shrubs are imported from the continent, which causes horticulture to thrive in other economies, but not here in the UK. In fact, I think we have pretty much destroyed our own horticultural industry and it is for that reason, that we as "small-niche-growers", along with all other gardeners in the country, can change this situation by growing local native species, pesticide & insecticide free.
I am absolutely passionate about pollinating insects and the loss of bees worldwide. This concern drives my growing specifically for their benefit. I concentrate on perennials, and include as many native and wild species as I can. I believe many of them have been dismissed as too old fashioned/ out of date/ have erratic germination/ are not easily kept in a pot and therefore cannot be produced quickly and cheaply in the vast quantities as they do on the continent. I grow from seed or divide my own stock & plants whenever possible, and try to avoid hybrids as they can be weaker plants which often prove to be annual and not fully hardy. I also often “trial” new perennials and shrubs for up to 2 seasons before passing them on with an honest opinion of their worth.
I held the position of head gardener at Elverton Farm (2005 to 2019), employed by Mr. & Mrs Johnson. Over the 14 years, I enjoyed our work producing beautiful romantic planting schemes whilst being sympathetic to the 15th Century historical background of the house and landscape.
Through my relationship with Mrs. Johnson, I was offered the opportunity to work within the grounds of Nash Court nr. Faversham (which was historically the Dowager house for the Earl of Sondes) owned at the time by Mrs. Redsell. The Gardens at Nash Court had been updated and advised on by one of the head gardeners of the De Rothschild family in the 20th century.
I designed and planted my first sensory garden for blind children in 2007. This was an amazing opportunity to understand the human senses in relation to plants and everything that needs to be attached; Sound, Smell and Tactile composition. I learnt so much from staff and volunteers about this.
In 2008, I designed and planted the Sensory Garden at Farming World for children with special needs for educational purposes, and this was highly successful for children and adults alike. This was my second project to work with children with learning disabilities.
In 2009, I worked with the Environmental Agency, again producing an educational Garden Landscape for children with a wide variety of abilities, this garden was very well received and I learnt so much more.
In 2012, I spent a year as Head Gardener for The Countess Sondes Estate in Baddlesmere. I restored the gardens to a very high standard and had positive comments from all concerned. I also had the opportunity to design new gardens on the estate, which needed to look as though they had been in place for 300 years using historic planting. I feel that this was my best work.
Over the years I have worked with the Head Gardener at “The Salutation” in Sandwich, a Sir Edward Lutyens designed mansion house of historical importance. I supplied many plants and ideas and this garden is now extremely popular and successful from a financial point of view attracting visitors and events throughout the year.
I have also worked on the restoration of another Lutyens built house in Barham, near Canterbury, for Mrs. Ellen Kent, who is an international Opera Producer. Although neither of these properties had proven direct contact with Gertrude Jekyll, I drew on her aspirations and designs. This is a private house and is not open to public view.
A lot of my time is normally taken up with the 'Ladybirds', my successful female only Whitstable & Kent based gardening company that I set up about 25 years ago. Finally Moving to Valley View allows me to introduce my so far, quite secret pollinator conservation nursery to the public. Now I can give quality time to people interested in the subject and personally show them around, highlighting to them the importance pollinator friendly planting. During your visit I will help you with questions about where to plant and how to look after the plants you buy so that you too can work with Mother Nature. With the renovations of the stable blocks I will again begin offering workshops and lectures to groups and individuals on a whole plethora of subjects.