Meet the people – Judi the gardener!

Judi's-first-day-in-Joanna's-garden-Sept12

I love meeting and talking to fellow gardeners and so my new series ‘meet the people’ is a perfect way to do more of it! I’m going to attempt to conduct interviews and publish tips from expert gardeners and fellow allotmenters over the next few weeks.  My first interview is with blogger Judi Samuels from ‘judithegardener.co.uk’. I enjoy reading Judi’s blog and am intrigued by her day job as a professional gardener, which I assume is far more exciting than my office job. On Judi’s ‘about’ page she introduces herself as, “bonkers mad about plants” and her passion for them even comes with a warning!

Q. Hi Judi! I’m intrigued to know more about your passion for gardening? Can you tell us a bit about how and when it all started?
I was about ten when I first put my hands in the soil, my mother used to ask me to pick the stones out from the flower beds. Ever since, I have developed a relationship with gardens. Wherever I’ve lived I have always nurtured whatever there was in a garden and enjoyed adding plants. I have turned a passion, which has grown and grown, into a profession. I studied garden and planting design at Capel Manor in 2008 and this really helped me to build horticultural knowledge and the studying process completely immersed me in my love affair with gardening.

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Why did you choose gardening as a career?
Gardening was the natural progression for me after redundancy in 2010 from an office-based communications job. It was a scary leap but I knew I wanted and needed to make it. I have never looked back and I learn so much each and every day, because there are so many discoveries to make. I also love working with the diversity of people, who I share the joy of gardening and horticulture with.

I do thrive on the independence of running my own small business, I even enjoy all the background work and sometimes it feels like ‘playing shops’, just as I did when I was a young child. There’s always marketing and paperwork, monthly accounts and keeping a constant eye on all the online communications and reading to be done. Believe me, updating my web presence alone could be a full-time job in itself.  I manage my professional profiles on Twitter, Facebook, Shoot Gardening, Landscape Juice Network (LJN), LinkedIn, Skills Pages, Google Place Page and my own blog. Using all these communications seems an integral part of any business these days and is expected, maybe that’s my marketing communications background coming through

Was it expensive to start your own business?
Setting up a business takes time and money.  I have begged and borrowed tools, books and equipment and slowly over time I have replaced them. I try to be diligent about cleaning and sharpening my tools to keep them in good shape for as long as possible. I have developed a penchant for old wooden tools and treated myself to two good pairs of Felco secateurs, which I lovingly look after. I have spent money on marketing, but do use as many free opportunities as possible, most of my work comes to me by word of mouth. I have always felt that if you give people a good experience, then people will want to talk about that with friends and family.

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What’s it like being a gardener in winter?
Winter is a really tough time. I still have the usual bills to pay but without the same level of income. I am currently developing my gardening workshops and would love to secure some more teaching and writing work. I have kept myself busy this winter by working on promoting the Dingly Dells ™ and planting plans, as well blogging and giving gardening workshops. I advise anyone thinking about setting up a gardening business to think about their expenses during the winter and identifying possible income streams. It is a wonderfully comforting feeling when the phone starts ringing again and email notifications of new opportunities start flooding the inbox.

How much time do you spend on your own gardening projects?
I am always developing my own garden in my mind and whenever I’m not working on other people’s gardens, I am longing to get into it. There is a great crossing over between labouring and loving in my own and clients’ gardens. I take just as much pleasure in working in a client’s garden, (especially when I am commissioned to develop it by adding new plants species or creating a Dingly Dell), as I do with my own garden. I enjoy encouraging and enthusing about the relationship clients develop with their gardens. ‘I am bonkers mad about plants and my enthusiasm for them is infectious you have been warned’. This is not just my brand message; this is how I genuinely feel!

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Do you grow any vegetables or herbs? If so, why is that important to you?
In November 2012 I began working with the Prospects Project (a recovery and reintegration project) based at the Welcome Centre (a homeless charity) in Ilford. I am helping them with their allotment site. It’s a huge project that I love and I’ve been giving classroom based learning in basic horticulture along with inside and outside gardening tasks. I asked fellow Twitterers for some seed sponsorship recently and people were amazingly generous with their seed donations.

We are planning on growing herbs, fruits, vegetables and flowers at the plot and just last week made our first indoor sowings of tomatoes, chillies, jalepenos, aubergine and onions. We do have many more seeds to sow over the coming weeks and months. I keep a photo diary of the classroom-based workshops and outdoor activity, which I turn into a blog post each week. I often wonder if anyone reads what I write (still feels a bit self-indulgent) and I am reassured that I am being read, by the fact that you [Anna B] wrote to me after reading my blog and invited me to be interviewed…and here I am!

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Do you think gardeners should plant for wildlife, i.e. bees, birds and butterflies and what do you feel about UK gardeners planting more UK native plants?
In my own and client’s gardens, (when making recommendations for pollen-rich plants) I compile plants lists that includes both native and non-native species, plants that will attract pollinators, such as: Anthriscus sylvestris (Cow Parsley), Osteospermum (Cape Daisies), Scabiosa (Scabious), Astrantias (Masterwort), Echinacea (Coneflower), Achillea millefolium (Yarrow) , Buddjela davidii (Butterfly Bush) but to name just a few. I am a great fan of Graham Stuart Thomas and his book ‘Colour in the Winter Garden’ which in its essence, provides an abundance of plants (including trees) recommendations, that will supply the winter garden with not only scented blooms and coloured stems, but berries and over-wintering insects, so that birds have access to food during the harshest season.

What are your top tips for this year?
I think planting for all seasons would be my greatest wish (therefore, my top tip) I do believe in the richness of diversity and the abundant joy that it brings. Happy Gardening!

Thank you Judi! I hope you enjoy the spring and I look forward to reading more about your projects.

~ ~ ~
I’ve picked up some great tips there on planting for wildlife and about what to consider if you’re going to set up your own business. I hope you enjoyed the interview!

It’s snowing again here today, not quite what I had in mind for the start of spring! I think I’ll do some more seed sowing and hope that by the time they’re through I can pot them on, move them to the greenhouse and then get them outside. What’s the weather like where you are? What will you be doing this week?

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32 Responses to “Meet the people – Judi the gardener!”

  1. judithegardener March 23, 2013 at 10:50 am #

    Thanks Anna! This was great fun to do and I look forward to reading your other interviews. Best wishes, Judi.. :-) x

    • Anna B March 23, 2013 at 11:01 am #

      Hi Judi! Thanks so much for being my first interviewee! It’s great learning more about your career :)

  2. Jo March 23, 2013 at 11:23 am #

    I will enjoy this new series, it’s nice to get to know fellow bloggers a bit more. We’ve got snow here too, definitely an armchair gardening sort of weekend. I’ve got Gardeners World to catch up on from last night too, so I shall cosy up this afternoon and watch that. I’ve just caught up on your last blog post. I’ve never been to the Kirkgate farmers market, I really need to make more of an effort to go. I wish I could find a farmers market close to home, but I haven’t come across one yet.

    • Anna B March 23, 2013 at 11:52 am #

      Hiya Jo! I watched gardeners world last night, I just love Monty’s new greenhouse!! I hope you have a good afternoon, I’m staying in pottering : ) Thanks so much for your comment!

  3. thescottishcountrygarden.com March 23, 2013 at 12:48 pm #

    What an excellent post, Anna, and a great idea! I suspect there are a few of us who would like to do what Judi has done! Excellent choice of interviewee, and easy to see why Judi has made such a success of her new vocation. I look forward to more of these…

    • Anna B March 23, 2013 at 3:30 pm #

      Hello there! Yes, I think a few of us who love gardening maybe have secret ambitions to work in that field either as a gardener or maybe running a small farm or nursery. I’ve always thought the idea of being a gardener, driving a little van full of tools with a dog at my side would be wonderful, but just too scared to take the leap away from my comfort zone! Thanks so much for your comment, I’m so pleased you enjoyed the post :)

      • thescottishcountrygarden.com March 24, 2013 at 6:59 am #

        Quite agree! It’s that great leap into the unknown, Anna. Mind you, the interviews I’ve seen with those who do change career into gardening always seem to say they wish they’d done it earlier! Still when you’ve got bills to pay, hungry mouths to feed etc, you err on the side of caution, don’t you?

        • Anna B March 24, 2013 at 8:22 am #

          Hello!! Yes, I think if you’re working in what you are passionate about then it is sometimes not even like ‘working’ at times because you love it so much so I can see why when people get to that stage they wish they’d done it sooner. Sometimes a leap into the unknown is the best way. Thanks so much for dropping by :)

  4. Hannah March 23, 2013 at 2:59 pm #

    Absolutely lovely interview to read. So inspiring that Judi has made such a dramatic career change work for her!

    • Anna B March 23, 2013 at 3:31 pm #

      Hiya Hannah! Judi is definitely very inspiring and she clearly loves her job, which is just brilliant! I’m so glad you enjoyed reading her interview. Thanks so much for your comment :)

  5. gardeninacity March 23, 2013 at 5:14 pm #

    Great intervew! I’ve often wondered about having my own gardening business, this is nice reality check.

    • Anna B March 23, 2013 at 5:51 pm #

      Me too Jason! I am such a nosey person that this kind of inside info is just so intriguing to me! I am glad other people seem to like the interview too. Thanks so much for your comment :)

  6. Cathy March 23, 2013 at 7:56 pm #

    Really interesting to read, Anna, and an intriguing idea, interviewing other bloggers

    • Anna B March 23, 2013 at 8:12 pm #

      Hi Cathy, I hope to interview all sorts of people not just bloggers. Anyone who’s into gardening in some way shape or form basically from experts to beginners. I’m glad you found it interesting. Thanks so much for your comment :)

  7. Holleygarden March 24, 2013 at 3:01 am #

    I really enjoyed the interview. I admire her starting her own gardening business – sounds like a lot of work! And it’s nice that she’s still so enthusiastic about plants even with this being her job all day every day!

    • Anna B March 24, 2013 at 8:21 am #

      Hello there! Yes me too, I think it’s great that she’s chosen to follow her passion and not try and go back into the office job world. She is clearly enjoying herself. Thanks so much for your comment :)

  8. Charlie@Seattle Trekker March 24, 2013 at 4:18 am #

    I really enjoyed your post. I like talking to gardeners so I like your new format. Thank you.

    • Anna B March 24, 2013 at 8:24 am #

      Hi Charlie! Thanks so much! I’m really pleased you enjoyed my post and I’m sure Judi will be pleased that you enjoyed reading about her life and career in gardening. Thanks so much for your comment :)

  9. Janine March 24, 2013 at 7:30 am #

    Love your new series “meet the people” what a fab idea!!

  10. Anna B March 24, 2013 at 8:25 am #

    Hi Janine! Thanks so much! I am glad you find it interesting to read about other gardeners :) Thanks for your comment.

  11. Anna March 24, 2013 at 8:08 pm #

    Have not come across Judi’s blog before Anna so will certainly call in soon. Here gardening plans have had to take a back seat this weekend as snow has reared its ugly head yet again!

    • Anna B March 25, 2013 at 10:12 am #

      Hi Anna, same here. It snowed like crazy all weekend. I did a little bit more seed sowing though and I just hope that when they’re through and wanting to go outside that the weather will be better! Thanks so much for dropping by :)

  12. Ricki Grady March 25, 2013 at 1:25 am #

    You seem to have brought out Judi’s personality in a way that should please her no end. I’m sure that future interviewees will be eager to submit to your questions. Thanks! I enjoyed it very much.

    • Anna B March 25, 2013 at 10:13 am #

      Hi Ricki! Thanks so much for your comment. I’m so glad you enjoyed my post :)

  13. thesneakymagpie March 25, 2013 at 6:14 pm #

    Brilliant series, love it already!

    • Anna B March 25, 2013 at 7:27 pm #

      Thanks so much sneaky magpie! :)

  14. notjustgreenfingers March 26, 2013 at 6:49 am #

    Enjoyed reading this post and look forward to some more interviews. Thank you

    • Anna B March 31, 2013 at 2:20 pm #

      Really pleased you enjoyed it! Thanks so much for letting me know :)

  15. Janet/Plantaliscious March 26, 2013 at 9:19 pm #

    What a great idea for a series, I’m hooked. Really interesting to get a little window on what it is like to earn a living from gardening.

    • Anna B March 31, 2013 at 2:22 pm #

      Hiya Janet, I’m really happy you enjoyed it! Thanks for letting me know. I loved finding out more about Judi, so the fact that other people enjoy having a little ‘snoop’ into gardening as a career too is great :)

  16. PJ March 30, 2013 at 9:10 am #

    What a full to bursting post – love it! I’ll pop over to Judi’s blog and have a look so thanks for sharing. I think the paper bags with potato seedlings in are gorgeous – simple and effective!

    • Anna B March 31, 2013 at 2:23 pm #

      Hiya PJ! Ah yes, the seed potatoes are in my previous post about the Farmers market. I loved those bags too! They looked great on the stall. It’s the market again next weekend and I can’t wait to go back and stock up!! Thanks so much for dropping by :)

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