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My talks and ‘The Great Horticultural Hustle’

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During a couple of recent conversations, I have described the way I work today as a “horticultural hustle”. I have looked up the word ‘hustle’ to check that I am using it in the correct way and I would like to assure people that I don’t mean it in the swindling or jostling way. The Great Horticultural Hustle describes the way that I am working rapidly and energetically, sometimes in a number of different locations on the same day.

I have no typical day. I can be meeting a garden design client at their home in the morning, picking up plants from a nursery in the afternoon and speaking at a gardening club in the evening. I work at a beautiful garden a couple of days a week and those days can feel like a rest. A chance to be in one location for several hours in a row is a real treat, and I relish it. My freelance lifestyle affords me such variety and I enjoy it immensely. Sometimes I find that I have to ‘book myself’ to work in my own garden. I never seem to get quite enough time for it and blocking out a whole morning where it will get my complete devotion is precious time well spent.

The beautiful gardens at Euridge Manor, near Chippenham, Wiltshire, where I work a couple days each week

I gain vast amounts of delight from meeting gardening folk. My background working in large gardens, studying for qualifications and researching for projects means that I have built up a substantial network of contacts within the horticultural industry. I have been lucky enough to be invited to visit horticultural heroes such as Charles Dowding, Sarah Mead and Adam Alexander in their own gardens. However, it is meeting home gardeners, when I give talks at gardening clubs and other events, that gives me the most pleasure.

With horticultural friends at a recent event. These gatherings are great fun as well as being marvellous networking opportunities

When I walk into a village hall, town hall, tractor shed on an estate, or wherever the venue for the talk is (…I have even given talks in churches and chapels here and there. The acoustics are always superb!) I know I am among friends. We are all keen gardeners and I never assume to be the expert in the room. I always go away at the end of the talk with a new nugget of information, a tip for more successful growing or a note of a particular variety of flower, fruit or vegetable to try. This year I have grown Tomato ‘Lizzano F1’ following a talk where I told the audience that I was yet to find a bush variety that I truly enjoyed. Guess what? It’s a corker and has just won me first prize in the small tomato category of our local district horticultural show. That wouldn’t have happened if I treated my talks like one-way lectures.

Tomato ‘Lizzano F1’ winning first prize for me in the small tomato category at this summer’s Somerford Show

I always hope that my talks give a little inspiration to attendees: perhaps a fresh look at a particular gardening conundrum or, at least the motivation to get outside and try something new in their gardens. My talks are high energy, go at a swift pace, contain lots of colourful images and, I have been assured, are a lot of fun. Several people have told me that, while listening to other speaker’s talks they can get drowsy or drift off into their own thoughts, but my talks have kept their attention throughout. I try not to analyse why this is because I might start getting big-headed or at least start to overthink my delivery, but I do wonder if it is my enthusiasm for my work (as much as my knowledge and expertise) that keeps them gripped.

Public speaking is something that I never envisaged enjoying as much as I do. It has become one of the most invigorating and enriching parts of my working week

The passion that I have for gardening, specifically organic gardening, is undeniable and if even the littlest sliver of that excitement reaches everyone in my audiences, I have done my job well. If I could go back in time and tell my younger self that I would be getting up in front of up crowds of people and speaking to them for a living, and that I really adore it, she wouldn’t believe me. Not for one second. I like to think, however, that she would be super proud of this and the many other horticultural plates that I am spinning all the time.