I started a career in tree surgery almost by accident. After completing a degree in History at York University I trained to act and sing. Frustrated by the life of an out - of - work theatre professional in the 80s, I looked around for something more rewarding. I saw an advert in my local paper saying that Harringay Council was encouraging women to take on professions that they might otherwise not have considered and would offer on-the –job training to the right applicants. One of the jobs on offer was that of trainee tree surgeon. I had always been interested in gardening and conservation, and thinking ‘that sounds like fun’ I applied. And got a job.
I worked for the Council for three years, as part of a three - person team, climbing, pruning, felling, digging out stumps and covering all associated tree works in the spectacular surroundings of Alexandra Palace Park and in the streets of Muswell Hill and Crouch End. I did evening courses for the theory section of the Royal Forestry Society Certificate in Arboriculture, and was allowed day release to take the City and Guilds/Royal Horticultural Society Certificate in Arboriculture.
After a nine - month stint as an Arboricultural Technician at Capel Manor College in Enfield, I joined the National Trust as an arborist/gardener, and worked at Winkworth Arboretum near Godalming in Surrey from 1987 to 1992. Working with Eric Barrs, the Head of the Arboretum, I learnt a huge amount about the care and identification of trees and shrubs, plus meadow and grassland management.
After taking the RHS Certificate in Horticulture at Level 2, I went on from Winkworth to become a student on the three year diploma course at The Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. This intensive course gives students three months each year in formal study; the other nine months are spent working in all the different departments throughout the gardens. I have worked in the Princess of Wales Conservatory, the Alpine Department, various producing greenhouses, several of the outside areas and of course, the Tree Gang. I studied Garden Design under Brigitte von Shoenaich and tree care with Tony Kirkham, and graduated with Honours in 1995.
Since that time, I have established my own garden design company, and have worked throughout London and South East England in the related areas of Garden Design and Restoration. I have created gardens from the bare earth left behind after building works; I have also worked in mature and developing gardens to enhance and manage the planting that is already there. I have wide experience in all aspects of garden design and building – soil preparation, weed clearance, hard landscaping, planting design and practice, construction of water features, turfing, fencing and trelliswork. As much as possible I try to garden organically: I recommend no chemical pesticides, work with peat-free growing media and restrict the use of herbicides to the rare use of one product for the specific removal of invasive and problem weeds.
I enjoy working with garden owners to help them design and realise the garden they want, and get huge pleasure from the physical and mental work involved in creating a new and beautiful outdoor space. I have a good practical knowledge of plants developed over twenty five years in professional gardening and know how to choose the right plant for the right place, ensuring that the finished garden will grow and thrive. I have experience in the care and renovation of fruit trees, and love growing all manner of fruit and vegetables.
I live in Kensal Green, North West London and when I am not gardening I am still involved in theatre, singing and sailing.
I cover all aspects of the design process personally, working with each client to get the plan right before we start the physical phase of the work. Once we move into practical gardening, I have a group of freelance workers who can be called upon to join the team as appropriate. It might be that a minor garden facelift calls for my imput plus one or two others for a single day; a larger scale re-design might entail a team of five for a fortnight. Between us we can cover all aspects of garden work from plant identification to paving, and from water feature installation to weeding.
On larger projects, it is sometimes more appropriate and cost effective to invite quotations for specific aspects from specialist companies, especially if there is a large amount of hard landscaping to install. In each case, I will discuss this with the client to agree on the most effective way of getting the work completed to a high standard.