Heading over to Northern Ireland this week to The Island Arts Centre, Lisburn to give The Horticultural Lecture of the Year: The Creative Shrub Garden. Delighted and honoured to be invited and almost apprehensive with such a build-up. Based on my last book, published August 1914 it is about planting combinations using shrubs that will create a specific mood or style of planting. All combinations are based on simple associations of three easy-to-grow shrubs and then how you build on that, according to space available and the situation.
It’s not the first time I’ve lectured on this subject, as you can imagine. But each time I change the content a little, partly to keep it fresh and partly because I take new pictures and other ideas have developed. It’s just the same as planting really, plants take your eye and then they rise up your agenda for a while until you become entranced by something else.
I think the success of this topic is down to the fact that gardeners get very mesmerised by individual plants, rather than thinking about how to use them and what to plant them with. We are all the same – we just can’t resist a plant we fall in love with, often with little regard as to how it will fit into our garden and where it will look good. Designers on the other hand are the other extreme; they are so busy looking at shapes, textures and how they work with the hard landscaping that they often fail to fall in love with the plants and consider how they will grow and be maintained in the future. Few manage a happy medium between the two.
I went into the world of horticulture because I love plants and I love people and really enjoy sharing my love of gardening with others. I am very lucky that I’ve spoken to such a wide variety of audiences from gatherings of less than twenty in draughty village halls to audiences of over two hundred in banqueting rooms and lecture theatres. Sometimes groups of keen horticulturists, sometimes non-gardeners. All groups are different, but they all have one thing in common, an interest in being there and maybe an interest in plants; my job is to inspire, entertain and I hope to increase their love of gardening.