Who Are Our Influential Gardeners?

Places of Change - Preparations for The Eden Project's show garden at Chelsea 2010

A few days ago The Daily Telegraph invited us to meet 30 of Britain's most influential gardeners as compiled by Tim Richardson. It's an extensive list, covering lots of different aspects of gardening and horticulture: designers, TV personalities, nurserymen, heads of relevant charities, magazine editors and more.

There's also a fair few names who'll be completely unfamiliar to most people: Martin Philips and Terry Duddy who sit jointly at number 4 for instance. They're cited as the Chief Executives of B&Q and Homebase BTW.

Now I have no idea how well these two garden or how stately their acres may be, so this list got me thinking somewhat. So much so, I was awake until 2am mentally compiling a list of all the people I thought were missing. That's the problem with this kind of thing: there's always room for it to expand much further.

Part of my problem is the list is called influential gardeners. I believe a list of the most influential people on gardening would be more accurate, but I admit that doesn't have quite the same catchy ring about it as the one used by the newspaper.

So my question for you today is this: have a look at the list and tell me who you think is missing. It looks like Tim has restricted himself to those who are living, so for the purposes of the first part of this exercise please concern yourself with those who are still amongst us. I believe there's just one non-UK name on the list, so it'd be great to hear of others we should know more about.

As a starter for 10, my 2am list included (in no particular order):
  • Tim Smit - for the Eden Project AND The Lost Gardens of Heligan
  • Jekka McVicar - for her magical organic herbs
  • Professor Stephen D. Hopper - head of world heritage Kew (especially the Herbarium as far as I'm concerned)
  • Heather Gorringe - for Wiggly Wigglers and raising the profile of the humble worm
  • Mike Calnan - Head of Parks and Gardens at the National Trust. I sat opposite him when I volunteered there: he influences 300 of the nation's most visited gardens, but doesn't have the media profile that Simon Jenkins (included in the list) does
  • Pam Warhurst - for starting Incredible Edible Todmorden: a way of thinking about public planting and growing food now being looked at globally as well as by other towns in the UK
  • Mr Bloom - OK, he may be a fictional character but I'm betting the current CBeebies generation will cite him as a major influencer when they're all grown up
And how about starting an additional list of those people (living or dead) who've influenced you as a gardener. They can be as humble or distinguished as you like, it'll also be interesting to see why you've included them too. I wonder how many of them appeared as Dinner Party guests a couple of years ago?

The choice is yours :)

Update 12/1/2012: Tim has responded to this post and his online commenters in The Telegraph today. I would like thank him for his concern about keeping me awake - this was merely serving to illustrate how thought provoking his piece was, as he had fully intended (thought provocation not sleeplessness!).

I see a number of points he makes are those I've made here. Any list like this will always have more room for names and by including only the names of the living meant it could be kept within bounds.

As Veg Plotting is read in a number of countries, I thought it would be interesting to see who the influencers were elsewhere, especially as lots of the names in Tim's list would be unfamiliar to quite a few of my readers.

This post was serving not to criticise, but to extend the conversation because it's an interesting question. I think the response in the comments shows it was a good thing to do and my thanks goes to everyone who contributed.


  1. I would add Keith Wiley - I find his gardening inspirational.

  2. Had a quick look at the list at the weekend VP and will revisit later. One surprise was the inclusion of a celebrity chef ~ a certain Mr J Oliver. Your collage has jolted my memory following your comment on my blog - you can edit collages on Picasa - email to follow :)

  3. How about Joy Larkcom, she must have inspired countless generations. And also Martin Crawford for his pioneering work and research on forest gardening.

  4. I though this list somewhat skewed, in that it reads as 'British' finest, but then includes Oudolf. Great gardener as he is, and an example to all, not sure one could class him as British. Also who is the list targeting? Any gardener of credit influenced by Jamie Oliver?? I presume the Telegraph list addresses only 'current' influential gardeners, but surely Jekyll, Sackville-West, Christopher Lloyd etc still influence gardeners today, so should also be included? To answer your question (apologies for going on); if the list concerns 'alive and kicking' influential gardeners I would add; Dan Pearson, Sarah Raven Peter Clay (plus team) (also Crocus).

  5. I 2nd Carl's suggestions, and also would add Alys Fowler, for helping us think about what we can forage within an urban environment and for 'edible gardening'. And Patrick Whitefield for permaculture gardening.

  6. Papaver - Keith spoke at our garden club 2 years ago and we visited his garden that summer. I'd been feeling really depressed that there was nothing new to be done with gardening any more and was completely bowled over by his approach.

    Anna - I was surprised by his inclusion esp as the Homebase CEO was included too and you could argue the business decisions made by the latter encompasses a lot of what JO does for gardening.

    Carl Legge - both were on my 2am list :)

    OG - I've taken the target to be Telegraph Gardeners and that it's about the key decisions/things said/done by those listed which will influence that audience. We tend to forget that the decisions made by big cos like B&Q influence far many more people than anything done by most people we would regard as influential. If the list had included deceased gardeners, I reckon I wouldn't have got to sleep at all! One of the reasons why I was awake until 2am was because I was trying to remember Peter Clay's name. I reckon dementia is beckoning ;)

    Gwenfar - they were on my 2am list too :)

  7. Top of my list would be Carol Klain.

  8. OG - oooh hadn't thought of him, though he overlaps quite a bit with Piet Oudolf and Nigel Dunnet/James Hitchmough who are on the list.

    TCJ - Carol's on The Telegraph's list. I'd expect major howls of protest if she hadn't ;)

  9. I think Tony Kirkham, Kews head of arboriculture, Fergus Garrett at Great Dixter who is working madly to encourage good horticultural learning both at Dixter and generally, and I agree with Carl 100% as to both his suggestions.
    But along with you I believe this list is a list of those influential in the world of horticulture, rather than influential gardeners.

  10. I like your list, and the people mentioned in earlier comments!
    What about Beth Chatto and Matthew Wilson?
    Reading the other list I wondered at the inclusion of some, especially J Oliver. Flighty xx

  11. Yes, definitely Beth Chatto - how can she not be on the list?! :o
    I'd also include Cleve West - 6 RHS gold medals and his gardens are always very popular, he must have influenced a lot of gardeners.
    And I'm wondering about Adam Pasco - I don't know what the circulation of GW magazine is, but it's more populist than Gardens Illustrated & I'd expect it to have more influence on the ordinary gardener.

  12. Hmm, from across the pond I have to say I'm only familir with 5 of the folks on the list and of the 5 I only think of 2 of them in relationship to gardening. HRH, Sir Roy Strong and Jamie Oliver don't come to mind at all in relationship to gardening. Alan Titchmarsh and Penelope Hobhouse do come to mind. I was surprised at the exclusion of Beth Chatto. When I visited England my gardens to see where Sissinghurst, Stourhead, Hidcote, Great Dixter and Hestercombe.

  13. Titchmarsh and Don, but not Klein. In other words the longest influence for me, like many, is Gardeners' World - and thus I need Hamilton too. Own several Hessayon books: he always provides the most straightforward advice.But the person who got me started was my mother, and my Granny made me love it!

  14. Fantastic suggestions everyone, thank you :)

    It was worth being kept awake going through all of this in my head so you could join in. I can't believe I didn't think of Beth Chatto though!

  15. If they're going to include commercial people, then what about the David Austin team who have ensured that roses remain a popular garden plant into the 21st century, and are known worldwide.
    Much as I love Sue Biggs, I don't really think she's been at the RHS long enough to be included. I think she will be hugely influential, but it's too early to assess. The RHS itself, obviously, is a very important influence.
    I'd include Joe Swift who I think has done a huge amount to popularise contemporary garden design among the general public.
    I rather object to the inclusion of Homebase and B&Q. I take the point that they influence what gardeners BUY. However, they are merchants, not trendsetters. They react to changing fashions and tastes - it's the trickledown effect.
    I don't see why they should get the credit for selling cheap versions of designer garden furniture when someone else came up with the original concept.
    Or for selling peat-free compost to appease the eco-warriors , which then turns out to be useless (Homebase, according to Which, January 2010).

    1. Good points Victoria! Tim's response to this post and the Telegraph online commenters was posted just after you commented here yesterday.


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