Why gardening? I think the bug for gardening was as a result of my parents asking me as a child to tidy their outside space. I remember toiling for what seemed like ages cutting the grass with a pair of shears and a push mower. I can’t say that I enjoyed it because it seemed like a chore. But years later when I owned my first property I found that working on my patch of land evoked childhood memories of the scent of roses, the beauty of the nodding daffodils in the wind, and the smell of the grass during its first cut after its winter dormancy. Before I knew it I was hooked and the seeds for my future career were sown.
What was your favourite part about being on BBC One’s The Instant Gardener? For me the best part about being on The Instant Gardener was the camaraderie among everyone on the show, from the bosses at 12 Yard who produced the show right through to the runners. I have forged some great friendships which I’m sure will last a lifetime.
What’s your favourite local garden? Great Dixter in Sussex which used to be owned by the late Christopher Lloyd has given me so much inspiration. I just love his relaxed style of planting as well as the man’s willingness to push boundaries. Out of all the great gardens this is the one I probably visit the most. There is certainly a little bit of Great Dixter in many of The Instant Gardener projects.
What’s the most valuable piece of gardening advice you’ve ever been given? My very first client was a lady called Jo Bryant. She had the most amazing larger than life personality along with the most beautiful garden which was the love of her life. What she didn’t know about gardening you could write on the back of a postage stamp. A fantastic teacher, I knew her for three years until her untimely death. I suppose it wasn’t the advice she gave me that was so valuable but the way she would alter my state of mind. For example, if I arrived at her property and it was a cold rainy day, she would greet me with that booming smile of hers and the first thing she would say is “Danny, how lovely to see you, what a dramatic day.” What she was saying is there is no such thing as a bad day and there’s a beauty in everything if you choose to look for it.
What’s your biggest gardening challenge to date? That’s an easy one. The first garden I ever designed and built. It could have been an absolute nightmare because the client was very testing. I remember thinking. “If this is what this job’s all about then I’m going to find an office job.” I’m glad I didn’t!
What are you working on at the moment? I’ve been spending my time adjusting a friend’s garden in Romney Marsh. It’s a lovely property which doesn’t really need my input. The job has involved opening up the views into the surrounding countryside by cutting back shrubs and re shaping trees on its boundaries, installing raised beds in the vegetable garden, returfing some areas and doing a general tidy. There’s been lots of clearing and burning which I really enjoy. You just can’t beat the smell of wood smoke.
- words: Danny Clarke
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