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Spotlight on Georgie Steward our Gardening Guru!

We all need a Georgie in our life! A ray of sunshine and gardening inspiration, we are delighted that Georgie has agreed to be our regular horticultural expert. If you can’t get your beetroot to grow or your begonias to flourish, Georgie will have the answer!

How did you get into gardening?

For as long as I can remember I have had this image of Mum in her nightie padding round the borders digging, weeding and watering, always with secateurs in hand. When I was sent off to school that image stayed with me and was a great source of comfort!  The seed was sown and when I finally had my own patch, I too was out there digging, edging, weeding and picking – more often in pyjamas but nonetheless!

I remember very clearly walking round our house in Berkshire on our first viewing and catching a glimpse of the garden through the doors just desperate to get out there. I decided to sign up for the Good Gardening Diploma course at the English Gardening School in Chelsea Physic Garden. It was honestly the best year of my life,  where I could immerse myself in all things gardening and gain practical experience from some of the most wonderful gardeners, designers and plantspeople as well as researching and writing.  We have made quite a lot of changes to the garden over the years but the feeling of the garden remains the same – and it inspires me every day.

What would you say your garden design philosophy is?

Raindrops on Hostas

I’m no designer – but in the back of my mind I am always working towards creating a garden that works with nature, not against it. I associate most with a naturalistic, rustic style of gardening and am really interested in plant health, plant pollinators and planting trees.  I try to grow and plant a wide and diverse range of healthy plants that will thrive  – a rich tapestry of planting can only be of benefit to the environment. I tend to believe that more is more – using evergreen structure as a foil for generous, abundant planting that flows and spills out of every nook and cranny.

Build a garden you enjoy spending time in, that connects you with nature and feeds  both your soul, wildlife and the wider landscape.

Do you have a favourite plant, shrub, tree?

Salvia jamensis ‘Nachtvlinder’

This is difficult for me as I am a complete plant hoarder and obsessed with growing/buying all sorts of different plants. I would have to choose shrubby salvias as my latest obsession – my favourite would have to be Salvia jamensis ‘Nachtvlinder’ which flowers from May right through to November and smells like blackcurrants.

What’s the most important piece of equipment for any aspiring gardener?

A Hori Hori weeding knife

The Hori Hori knife is probably the most useful tool I own.  It looks a little scary (!) but is good for everything from weeding to planting to cutting back and even sawing!

What starting advice can you give for the novice and nervous gardener?

Go for it! Get out and there and get gardening! Honestly the more you do, the more you will learn and be amazed by the magic of it all. Be creative, express yourself and enjoy the sense of achievement a freshly weeded bed can give you! Don’t worry about making mistakes – beautiful gardens are made up of imperfections and are all the more characterful for them. Make your garden a reflection of your personality – a slice of you – It may not be everyone’s cup of tea – but that doesn’t matter.

Do you like a lot of colour in your garden?

China Rose, Rosa x odorata ‘Mutabilis’ with honeysuckle

Yes absolutely –  we all need colour in our lives! The way you use colour can have an impact on the garden’s atmosphere and mood.  Bright colours don’t scare me any more – a touch of orange really sings out and intensifies other colours.  Choose colours you love and be bold! But don’t get too bogged down with one particular colour scheme as nature always has the upper hand!.Your chosen plants may not flower together, self sowers may pop up which will thwart your design.

Do you believe in the concept of ‘rooms’ within a garden?

Creating a ‘garden room’

Yes absolutely – if you have the space – and even if your garden is small, creating garden rooms is a great way of making your space feel bigger. They also give you the opportunity to experiment with different colour palettes without having to worry about potential clashes. Sissinghurst Castle is a masterpiece in this regard.

Which is your favourite season for the garden and why?

Potting in Springtime

It would have to be Spring – seeing those first signs of life, tiny bulbs emerging, hedgerows coming alive with birdsong, the days getting longer and carpets of wood anemones, primroses and bluebells.  It’s also the time when I do most of my seed sowing and propagating which I am fanatical about!

Who do you most admire within the gardening world?

There are so many! Is it too obvious to say Monty Don?! I literally hang off his every word. I also love Jimi Blake from Hunting Brook Gardens – he is so engaging and grows all sorts of exciting unusual plants. Sarah Raven is another favourite of mine – she just exudes abundance and generosity in everything she does – I love her style. And then there has always been Vita Sackville West who I think created one of the most beautiful gardens in the world – Sissinghurst.

Do you see any trends emerging in garden design?

I would like to think that garden design is gradually turning away from monocultures in planting, large drifts of one particular plant and cold, linear, minimalism to embrace a more naturalistic, wilder form that has biodiversity, generosity, sustainability and wildlife at its heart.

How have you coped in lockdown?

The garden has definitely been my sanctuary and it has become more of a comfort and a companion than ever.  The desperate news over the radio every day at the beginning of lockdown and the anxieties that came with it more than ever made me thankful to have my little patch.  Nature forges on despite it all, it is such a strong life-force and this gave me huge hope for a brighter future. So I started my Instagram to both keep me sane and hopefully inspire others to get out there and garden. Let it nourish you.  I just hope that those who have started to garden for the first time will carry on – it is a refuge that is so good for the soul.

Motto for life

Glorious Apple Blossom

Take a moment. Slow down. There is inspiration all around us. Stop, reflect and be. Seating areas in special places in the garden are essential for this!

Aspirations for the future

To keep on gardening and learning about gardening – I don’t think you ever stop and I am just at the very beginning. There is so much more I want to do in my garden – I would love to plant a small meadow, a little orchard, an exotic area perhaps!  

Follow fanatical gardener and plantaholic Georgie on instagram @georgielovestogarden

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