Interview with Rachel Brooks at RHS Hyde Hall – Army baby and self-confessed gardening addict
We interviewed self-confessed gardening addict and GardenTags Ambassador Rachel Brooks at RHS Hyde Hall recently. It was a rather blustery day so we hunkered down in the rather lovely thatched barn restaurant and warmed our hands on café latte (as you do).
So Rachel, tell us about your growing story… Where did your passion for plants come from?
I caught the growing bug at an early age. I was an army baby which meant the family moved around an awful lot. As you can imagine we were never in any one place long enough to put down roots and garden. Fortunately, there was one growing constant in my life and that was my Grandad.
My grandad was a no-nonsense somewhat stern man who would soften as soon as he was in his garden. One of my earliest memories is walking around my Grandad’s vegetable garden picking and eating juicy tomatoes with him. I also remember coveting the roses in his front garden too and thinking one day I’d like to turn my hand at growing roses.
What gets you growing today?
Gardening is my ‘me space’; A place to escape. After work I like nothing better than to walk around the garden and check the progress of my plants. It helps me relax and reset. It’s also the whole process of growing from the design, planting and nurturing. What’s not to love about gardening?… Well, perhaps that it’s costing me a fortune in plants and I’ve had to buy a Land Rover Defender so I can fit my garden centre purchases in the back!
We’ve noticed that gardening isn’t your only passion in life. We understand you’re a bit of a petrol head too?
Ah. Yes. It’s true. I’m passionate about three things in life and that’s gardening, classic cars and architecture. You’d be surprised to know that it is possible to indulge all three passions at the same time. Beautiful country houses usually have glorious gardens and they often hold classic car shows! In fact, my husband and I visited a classic car show at RHS Hyde Hall this year which meant I could pop into the gardens too.
So you’re a member of the RHS. Why did you join?
I’ve only been a member for a year and I do have an admission to make. I only bought the RHS membership so I could go to the RHS Chelsea Flower Show exclusive member day and thought I’d only use the membership card once or twice. Well, that clearly didn’t happen. I’ve used it a lot more than that. In the last twelve months I’ve been to RHS Hyde Hall countless times, as a GardenTags Ambassador I’ve organised #GTMeets at RHS Wisley, RHS Harlow Carr and RHS partner garden Beth Chatto Gardens (takes a deep breath). So you could say I’ve got my monies worth.
How do the gardens inspire your planting?
Take RHS Hyde Hall for example. It shares a similar climate to where I live so I have a good idea that if it grows at Hyde Hall it’s likely to grow in my garden. For instance, I’m getting a little bit obsessed with grasses at the moment as I love the texture and movement they create in a garden. The Hyde Hall dry garden is perfect to take grass planting inspiration from.
Claudia Pearce and Caroline Cassell who are a couple of my fellow GTers have encouraged me to visit National Garden Scheme member gardens. I wouldn’t have been brave enough if it wasn’t for them. In fact, I recently visited NGS Ulting Wick which plants over 10,000 tulips. I’ll definitely be going back there next spring.
Of course, the gardeners on GardenTags inspire my planting every day and cost me a fortune in new plants in the process (we all laugh).
How would you inspire future generations to grow?
It’s a challenge getting my own children engaged in gardening because they’re at that life stage where they have other things to focus on. That said I’ve seen the seeds of a growing passion in my son Max. Whilst he’s not interested in ornamentals he’s been fascinated by my home grown efforts in particular the Dwarf Purple Beans that go green when you cook them! It’s small things like that that can hook future generations in.
We know it’s hard to choose but if you could only grow one flower what would it be and why?
That’s tough (pause) but it would have to be Rose Iceberg. My grandad’s roses were his pride and joy and I wasn’t allowed to touch them. I think the fact that they were forbidden made me want to grow them more and who doesn’t love roses?
So what’s next in your growing story Rachel?
I really want to sort my front garden out now. I’ve already taken some inspiration today from the RHS Hyde Hall dry garden. I’ve got some grasses that I’m going to plant in the borders. I’d also like to add a feature border or perhaps water feature in the centre.
I’ll also be organising some more GT Meet Ups with my growing GardenTags friends.
Exclusive to GardenTags – If you’ve been inspired by this story For GardenTags Members only… Buy an RHS membership for yourself or as a gift for someone special and enjoy £5 off and three months free *.
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