The green fingered folk at Erisea are very happy to share with you a chat we had with the lovely Matt James recently. The well known and loved TV personality and part time university lecturer to boot, was more than happy to share with us a bit of a look into his life. Better known for his time on The City Gardener (or Urban Outsiders in the US) and his series of City Garden books, Matt has become a household name and go to for any garden lover living in the city. We wanted to get to know him a bit better and so we asked him a few questions about his life as a gardener and where it started.
What first interested you in becoming a gardener?
It was my mum who got me into gardening. She’s always been really passionate about it and I know I’m lucky in that.
Here at Erisea we are hooked on Love Your Garden, what is your favourite thing about being on the show?
I was involved in the inaugural series when it was a magazine style programme rather than a makeover each week; it’s still shown on ITV2. Along with the format itself – we did some lovely features – the size of the production was probably my favourite thing. I like working with small, professional and mobile production teams.
Which would you say is your most favourite of the gardens you’ve designed or worked on?
I’ve created a lot of gardens over the years each being memorable for different reasons. Perhaps most extreme were designing and building gardens in New York and Los Angeles – one week a beach-front garden on Venice Beach and the next a roof-top in Manhattan. Good fun, but seriously exhausting. I’ve built a lot of show gardens with my design students too which I really enjoy.
Us ladies are in awe – how do you manage lecturing, writing, broadcasting, TV and gardening too? You must have a hectic schedule!
At times I do, which can be difficult. However in recent years, we’ve had two children and this partnered with a move to deepest Cornwall for a less hectic life mean I’ve a much better work life balance now. I’ve learned to become choosier too, only working with people I like on projects I want to. My wife drolly complains this doesn’t help our bank balance, but I’m happier more than ever before and can spend as much time as possible with the kids.
Do you prefer small scale gardening, or large scale landscaping?
Difficult to answer, it depends on the context, client, budget and location. Planting design is my specialist area (I’m currently writing a book on it for the Royal Horticultural Society) so anywhere where there’s space to play with plants is good.
What advice would you give to someone who has a small concrete yard with no green space, who would really like to have a garden to tend?
- Do some research – look at books, magazines and the web for ideas and inspiration.
- Visit shows, garden centres and nurseries and talk to the experts. There are many people who can help the beginner so there’s no need to feel isolated.
- A plan is essential. Time spent creating one will seriously save money and time later on.
- Don’t impulse buy as tempting as it may be. Make a plan.
- Learn carefully about the characteristics and microclimate of your space. Once you know what you’ve got you can plan accordingly.
- In small spaces design details count more than ever. Don’t settle for second best, even if this means employing professionals or waiting a while (within reason of course)
- Keep it simple and don’t miniaturize everything just because it’s a small space; this will perversely shrink it further still.
- Take your time. As famous landscape architect Sylvia Crowe wisely once said ‘a garden is a process not a product’.
Finally, what are the most impressive seasonal plants to grow in autumn?
Too many to mention. Trees and shrubs with striking autumn colour like Euonymus alatus (the winged spindle) are favourites, so to berrying beauties like Sorbus cashmiriana (Kashmir rowan) and Callicarpa bodinieri var. giraldii (beauty berry) – birds love them too.
Thanks Matt, we are all off to go and research the plants above, who are we to argue with the expert.