Interview with Michael Perry the Ultimate Plant Geek
We interview the ultimate Plant Geek – Michael Perry to get the low-down on his growing story. Michael has been responsible for introducing hundreds of plants into the UK including the Egg and Chips plant and the Fuchsia Berry! He now has a burgeoning presenting career and loves nothing more than to share his plant obsession with us all. Over to you Michael…
1. Your growing ambitions started at a young age. What or who was the catalyst for your growing journey?
I grew my first plant in school actually. It was a tradescantia houseplant, and I grew it from a cutting. I took it home and went to plant it outside, but stood on it instead! My skills thankfully improved after that… Spending time with my grandparents was the real catalyst, as I picked up on their own gardening skills and emulated their addiction!
2. How did you go from zero to horticultural hero i.e. top 20 most influential horticulturalist?
Haha! Well, I have developed this habit of saying yes to everything! And, despite being a shy teenager and twenty-something, I’ve pushed myself to try new things over the years. I have so much to thank Thompson and Morgan for, with 18 years experience across many different departments. My unique skill set envelops marketing and horticulture, and my unusual social media stance blends industry knowledge with consumer access.
3. We understand that in your formative years you were a closeted plant geek, how does one go about hiding your growing habit?
Who have you been speaking to! I was simply keeping my weekend habits quiet from my fellow students. They must have assumed I was out doing boyish things, when really I was potting on seedlings and such! Times have changed, and I wouldn’t dream of needing to hide my passion if I were a student now though!
4. As a self-confessed plant obsessive. How do you feed your plant addiction today?
Well, my career now means I travel A LOT, and have no garden at present. My plant addiction is being fed by sharing and communicating about plants, and visiting a botanical garden wherever I go. But, also, just wandering the streets can teach you so much about plants, and see what and how people grow at home!
5. You’ve been instrumental in creating some of the world’s most innovative plants from the Tomtato to Egg and chips. How do you go about dreaming up these creations?
I can’t give any my trade secrets, but in the case of the Egg and Chips plant, this was a simple graft of 2 plants in the same family. The same process was used with tomatoes and potatoes to form the TomTato. But, it isn’t just new plants, it’s about how they are presented too, that’s why marketing is an important element to my activities.
6. How has the RHS been part of your growing story?
RHS Chelsea has been inked in on my calendar every year. It’s like a showcase for our industry! I also love the niche London shows as well, and am pleased to see them getting much more popular!
7. If money were no object what would be your luxury garden purchase
It has to be the plants. All the plants I want! I haven’t bought plants for a while, so even the basics are probably more than I’m used to paying on a wholesale basis! I love tropical plants, so the expense wouldn’t just be on the plants, but also the growing support, i.e. plush conservatory!!
8. Let us into the secret… Where do you get your planting inspiration? We won’t tell, promise.
You just have to have a go. I think too many panic about growing and interacting with plants, whereas there is really no right or wrong! Different methods work for different people. Drop the shame, and get your hands dirty!
9. As a self-styled plant hunter you’ve gone to the corners of the globe to track down the rare and unusual. Where should we go to seek out what’s bang on growing trend right now?
Everywhere. Social media is the key. More and more people are sharing, and learning from other plant geeks right around the world, and it’s fabulous. I have recently connected with a breeder of Lotus plants, which wouldn’t have been as easy without the worldwide web…
10. We can’t keep up with you Michael… Why don’t you tell us what’s next in Mr Plant Geek’s growing story?
I am flexing my new plant muscles again with Suttons Seeds, and have recently begun work on their new product team, so you can expect some very fantastic plants in UK gardens very soon!
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