Through The Garden Gates of Matthew Pottage – London and Yorkshire, England
“Don’t be afraid to try things and make mistakes. My parents had little time for gardening when I was growing up and I had pretty much free reign, where I made all sorts of terrible mistakes, but learnt more than any book or course ever taught me.” Matthew Pottage
Featured Gardener: Matthew Pottage
Location: London and Yorkshire, England
Years Gardening: As long as I can remember!
How much time do you spend gardening?
I have to get some gardening in most days – too many days spent away from plants makes me a miserable man! Because I work at RHS Garden Wisley, people often assume every day is pure gardening – no such luck! However when I escape the office I’ll either help out one of my teams or work on the borders around the main building at Wisley which I keep greedily to myself! At home, I have a tiny garden in West London, which is crammed full of goodies, taking advantage of the London micro-climate.
Describe your garden(s) or gardening activities:
My London garden is a tiny oasis, filled mainly with interesting foliage plants, which I have a huge soft spot for. A towering Fatsia japonica sets the scene, under which Aspidistra thrive alongside tender ferns such as Blechnum gibbum, Asplenium nidus where a large clump of Cymbidium resembles an iris!
I also have several potted plants, which I’m forever shuffling around and whatever is flowering or looking pretty gets stood by the back glass doors. Winter was taken care of by my all time favourite Ribes laurifolium and presently Corokia ‘Silver Ghost’ is looking rather quaint.
The garden at my family home in Yorkshire is still very much a major part of my life – traveling there throughout the year to help my parents keep it managed for its annual opening with the NGS (Sunday, 20th July this year!). It is a pretty space absolutely bursting with plants. Since I was a kid I had a collection of succulent plants, which still exist in the greenhouse, while the main garden is a riot of shrubs, perennials and exotics.
A small meadow area at the bottom of the garden is always popular on open days, as is the small courtyard garden to the side of the house which is home to large leaves and structural plants. Unlike my West London garden, it has dreadful clay soil, gets cold in the winter and is just a five minute walk to the sea, so the freezing cold easterly winds are very damaging at times. Alongside my gardens, I have a passion for indoor plants, which surround my desk at work and seem to follow me in huge quantities wherever I live!
What about your garden(s) or gardening activities has given you the most pride?
Opening my Yorkshire garden to the public with the NGS has brought immense pride, sharing ‘plant talk’ with likeminded individuals, sharing plants and experiences is always very rewarding.
What about your garden(s) or gardening activities has been the biggest challenge, and how did you overcome it?
Gardening on the Yorkshire coast on clay soil has been my hardest challenge to date! Thegarden floods, freezes to minus eight readily, and is rather exposed and salt laden. Those choice, woodland, acid loving, fussy lovelies are no-hopers, and it’s made me work realistically with my conditions and learn to treat clay soil with utmost respect. When managed correctly, it is an excellent growing media.
What advice would you give to a novice gardener who is just starting out?
Don’t be afraid to try things and make mistakes. My parents had little time for gardening when I was growing up and I had pretty much free reign, where I made all sorts of terrible mistakes, but learnt more than any book or course ever taught me.
What are your two favorite “can’t live without” gardening tools or products?
The only ‘cant live without’ things for me are plants! These would have to be the Monkey Puzzle tree, which I adore and Edgeworthia chrysantha which is my favourite flowering shrub.
What’s your next project?
It’s a little long term, but I’m determined to make conifers loved again. I’ve recently become a committee member for the British Conifer Society and I plan to show off the many attributes of conifers wherever possible!
How does your garden and/or gardening enrich your life?
It brings me a sense of reward like nothing else and a real sense of achievement. It constantly enriches you through learning, as well as keeping fit and being outdoors. What isn’t there to love?
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