I have been actively writing about plants and gardens since 1989, when I had my first piece in The Garden – the journal of the Royal Horticultural Society. Since then I have continued to write occasionally for them, as well as Country Life, The Daily Telegraph, Hortus, House and Garden, The English Garden and many more magazines. Over the last ten years or so I have had a particularly high profile in Gardens Illustrated – it's a magazine I am especially proud to be associated with, as they have done so much to raise the profile of quality planting design. I have also been published by several US magazines, most notably Garden Design.
It is as a prolific author I am best known. I'm lucky, I can write very easily and quickly, something I probably got from my mother, who was a very successful writer of children's educational books (she wrote under her maiden name of Phyllis Flowerdew and you can read about her here Phyllis Flowerdew. My main theme has been naturalistic planting design, which I have played a major role in promoting since the mid 1990s; The New Perennial Garden was widely seen as one of the most influential garden books of the decade.
I feel especially honoured at having worked with Dutch designer Piet Oudolf since the mid 1990s, on magazine articles and on several book collaborations. I'm not claiming to have 'discovered' him (that honour belongs to Rose Atkins, the first editor of Gardens Illustrated) but I have done a great deal to help promote him. His unique eye and ability to work artistically with plants has put planting design on a whole new level – I'm immensely proud of the contribution I've made here. Working with Piet to try to explain what he does and how he does it has been very rewarding.
Plant ecology and how it can be applied to the garden situation has been a core theme, not just in terms of creating nature-inspired planting, but more generally; an understanding of how plants work and survive is crucial for any gardener. I'm fascinated by all aspects of plants and how we use them, so I have had occasional forays in books on wider aspects of planting design, and garden plant history.
I have had a lifelong and passionate interest in politics and history, and in how garden making and plant growing relate to a wider intellectual world. Hence Vista: The Politics and Culture of the Garden, a collection of essays I co-edited with Tim Richardson, and which led on to a highly successful series of events at The Garden Museum in London.
Another interest, a field in which I have not published, is food and cooking. I have however written the only (so far!) history of plant breeding, which is at the root of our ability to survive: Hybrid: The History and Science of Plant Breeding. I wrote this partly as a rejoinder to the desperately poor journalism which continually misrepresents agricultural crop improvement and food security issues. I'm especially proud that an African NGO has distributed this book to young journalists across Africa.
My blog is an opportunity to make forays into the kind of territory which conventional journalism does not: techie stuff about plants, political forays, commentary on gardens and landscapes, intellectual leaps of imagination.
The picture at the top of the page here is Sichtungsgarten Hermannshof, one of the places whose approach to planting design I have helped promote over the years.