Overall Philosopy

From childhood I have had a love for nature and wildlife.

During the first fifteen years of my work as a gardener I was concerned mainly with amenity and ornamental horticulture. (I include my time at RBG Kew, in the sense that, despite the encompassing scientific concerns and objectives of the institution, I was engaged primarily with the cultivation, display and maintenance of plants and landscapes to their best effect visually for the purpose of the enjoyment of the visitors to the gardens).

My move to Oxfordshire in 1992 triggered a further, more profound interest in ecology and habitat protection, to the extent that native British plants and wildlife became of greater personal significance to me than the development of gardens stocked largely with exotic species or cultivated forms.

As a gardener I know that the activity itself and the gardens created, protected, developed or maintained are essentially artificial-not natural; that gardening can be a way of reparation for our destructiveness of natural systems or a protective skin we retreat behind against the harshness of the world in which we live.

In the British Isles there are virtually no habitats left that can be regarded as truly natural, where the impact of human beings has not excessively influenced the wider ecosystem. Cliffs, uplands, steep sided valleys, some shores, estuaries and wetlands remain as remnants of our recent post glacial history, but the vast majority of available land space has been cultivated, built on, extracted from, concreted over, or played on, in a way that has only in recent times been more generally recognised as destructive to species diversity and specific habitat systems within our native flora and fauna.

I acknowledge though that gardening is also great fun, extremely satisfying and can be a
very creative activity! And perhaps it is those reasons that enable me still to function cheerfully as a professional, working for private individuals. As property or land owners they have their rights to their whims, no matter how misguided they may seem to me. At best, all I can hope is that sometimes people listen to and understand the message I’m trying to put across, that a garden is not just a place for self expression but is also an opportunity to display solidarity with nature itself by aiding a balance from species diversity rather than a drift to mono-cultural polarisation, born from our human insensitivity and ignorance. And when I do find a kindred spirit to employ me, it is particularly uplifting.

Gardens are richer still with the presence of birds, butterflies, moths, dragonflies, bees, beetles (and most flying and terrestrial insects), frogs, toads, amphibians, reptiles and mammals.

There are occasions of course where specific flora and fauna species are identified as enemies in the garden. Often this is purely a product of the changed habitat. Humans have introduced as many invasive, supposedly ornamental, plants unwittingly to gardens as the disturbance to and cultivation of ground brings native pioneer species we identify as weeds. Likewise Grey squirrels, Muntjac deer and Mink are all examples of mammals that we have inappropriately introduced to our ecosystem.

Perhaps it's the level at which we think about and value our gardens that is the ultimate distinction in our approach to their development and care. It is when they become a living extension, almost of our family or ourselves, that we are more likely to be concerned about the sort of issues raised above and also to explore the three dimensional, visual element beyond that of the purely practical or functional management of space, and into the territory of the painter, sculptor or architect.

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