From flowers beginning to sprout to bees and butterflies making an appearance, our gardens have become a place of certainty and safety and give us that much needed outdoor space we are all craving. Gardening is both therapeutic and is a great form of physical activity so we caught up with the very talented Sarah Raven, gardener, cook, writer and television presenter to talk about all things gardening and tips for growing vegetables and flowers.
When did your love for gardening begin?
I've loved wildflowers from the age of five or six, but didn’t get interested in garden plants until I had my own small garden in West London in my mid 20’s. My now-husband Adam's birthday present to me when I was 27, was a tiny lean-to greenhouse and I’ve sort of never stopped growing things since then.
How did you start your business?
I’ve always loved picking flowers and started growing small metre square patches of different well-known cut flowers such as marigolds, cornflowers and cosmos 25 years ago, when I was still working as a doctor. Then, when I had my second child, I began to grow cut flowers in a more systematic way. From the experience I gained then, I started teaching, and then wrote my first book, The Cutting Garden. I started selling a bit of seed on the back of that and packing it on my kitchen table. It has grown from that.
From running your own workshops to selling seeds and writing books, what has been the highlight of your career?
I love putting together our collections, finding unusual colours or interesting plants on my travels, bringing them back to the garden here to put together in borders, pots and vases to then photograph. That’s the bit I love most, the trialling and experimenting.
What was your garden at Perch Hill like before you moved in and how did you transform it?
There wasn’t a garden. It was a farm, with quite a few collapsing barns and buildings, lots of concrete, and asbestos roofs. I made the cutting garden first, then a veg garden, then the last garden full of brilliant and rich colours, and gradually added garden after garden.
What are the flower trends for 2020?
I think cashmere jersey colours are the thing — comfort, softness and romance, also lovely scented things such as sweet peas. That’s what we all need right now. And of course, grow your own is MASSIVE.
As well as running your business, keeping up with your garden, teaching workshops and writing books, you are also a wife and mother – how do you find time for everything?
I go to bed early and get up about 5am in the spring and summer. That’s my time for calm, when I can think things through and sort out ideas — and life in general.
What are your tips for someone wanting to introduce flowers into their garden? Where should they start?
Choose something easy and productive such as a cosmos or a snapdragon, which gives lots of flowers and colour, and you can cut to bring in.
Do you have any tips for someone wanting to start growing their own vegetables?
Again go for the easy, cut-and-come-again salads (loose-leaf lettuces, wild rocket, mizuna) and herbs (flat-leaf parsley, chives) as your first crops, plus maybe some potatoes if you have more room.
People say that gardening is ‘good for the soul’ - would you agree and why do you think that is?
I absolutely agree — gardening engages the brain, the body and the creative mind. That’s why it's so absorbing, as you need to concentrate to get it right but in a positive way.
Tell us your favourite
Season? Spring, it's full of possibility and of course the tulip, the greatest plant on earth.
Flower? The tulip, and the dahlia, cheerful, stylish, dramatic.
Cut flower? Iceland poppies, you must sear the stem ends in boiling water for 20 seconds but then these ethereal flowers last 5 days.
Homegrown vegetable? Tomatoes, there’s no better grazing food.
Sophie Allport Design? The Bees design, celebrating our vital pollinators!
Browse seeds and garden inspiration from Sarah Raven at: www.sarahraven.com
Photography © Jonathan Buckley
Have you got any plans for your garden this Spring? Let us know below in the comments.