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Adventures in Gardening - Blog



The Horticultural Lecture of the Year

Andy McIndoe

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. 

The changing face of gardening....

Andy McIndoe

I’m speaking at the Futurelines Event this week at Sandown Park, Esher, Surrey. It’s a new event organised by Garden Centre Retail. I’m the “inspirational speaker” – first session in the afternoon after serious, real garden centre stuff in the morning: catering and store layouts. Have to admit I don’t really know how to pitch this one. Sure, I was in garden retail for 40 years (including part time when at Uni) but that does make me sound like a dinosaur. I am in danger of delivering something that sounds rather like a talk to the local W.I. As soon as I started putting ideas together I found the theme “it isn’t like it used to be” developing. I want to avoid phrases like “15 years ago” – simply because things have changed so much in that time.

I’m calling it “The changing face of gardening” I think. But I’m not entirely sure it is gardening that’s changing its face – just the retail outlets. The gardeners I knew and their equivalents are still out there. They have more money, more time and easier access to a wider range of plants than ever before. They buy through web sites, ebay, shows, plant fairs, specialist nurseries, farmers’ markets, catalogues, shopping channels. My parents bought through Woolworths, a run-down local nursery and a stall in Stratford market. I wonder if today’s gardeners would buy more gardening in Garden Centres if the product was there?  In some cases it is – but it is so diluted by the volume of everything else it fades into oblivion. Easier to buy a panini and a Magimix or a new kettle.  

I think my greatest fear in speaking at an event of this kind is just sounding critical and negative. So yesterday I dropped in at a garden centre near Slough for inspiration. I didn’t find it …………and they didn’t even sell coffee. Maybe it wasn’t a garden centre after all. 

Adventures in Gardening - from the beginning

Andy McIndoe

As many will know I already blog regularly at MyGardenSchool. this is by no means a replacement for that blog. This is my blog about my personal adventures in the world of gardening. I've been gardening since I was a boy - and like everyone I've had different interests at different times. Orchids, roses, tulips, trees. In the past few years I've maybe been more of a shrubby. Recently I've actually enjoyed growing, or attempting to grow a few vegetables. That's quite worrying - nearly as bad as Patsy in An Fab enjoying table tennis. I'm sure one good season with ornamentals will cure me. I love sorting out peoples slightly neglected gardens, showing them what the right pruning and a few handfuls of fertiliser can achieve. I intend to devote a lot more time to that. 

My life has changed considerably since I left full-time employment and went freelance. I kind of get what those "change in lifestyle" characters have craved after years of earning great salaries and then enjoy wading around in mud in a garden. I'm loving the variety, and enjoying aspects of the world of gardening that I never knew existed. Some things are a little concerning. Will I make enough money to live on? A recent heart attack hasn't helped - but what the heck its spring - a new year and a new beginning. The start of a new adventure in gardening.