From farmyard to fashionista – Interview with Beck Saxton
We interview GardenTags Ambassador and gardening fashionista Beck Saxton AKA @MrsFlowerPot. From her upbringing on the family farm to garden design ambitions we get the low-down on her growing story.
1. Your growing ambitions started at a young age. What or who was the catalyst for your growing journey?
It sounds a bit cliche but the main trigger that gave me the horti bug was my upbringing on the family farm. My Dad was always moaning about the weather, wondering whether the grass was going to be dry enough for mowing or the land fit for ploughing and planting. It must have subconsciously been engrained into my brain from a very early age. The other influence was my Mum’s giant Antirrhinums (Snapdragons) it must have been Dad’s cow muck that helped them grow so statuesque! One of my earliest memories is picking off the flower heads and squeezing them with my fingers to make their mouth’s open.
2. We get the impression that you’re pretty obsessed with plants. How do you feed this obsession?
It does help that I get to play in 25 other people’s gardens on a regular basis so I get a lot of contact with all kinds of plants. I am a garden centre ‘plant hospital’ addict so you will find me lurking around the clearance/bargain basement area thinking about how I can resurrect a bedraggled Delphinium. The other way I feed my addiction is the many RHS Flower Shows and Gardens I visit when I have time off, (my husband says he’s a garden widow!). This years highlight was the first ever RHS Chatsworth Flower Show which had perfectly British weather (soggy) but was a truly amazing event. The Paxton inflatable conservatory was a must see along with the stunning giant metal dandelion clocks!
3. Congratulations for passing your RHS exams. What advice would you give to someone who is starting out their horticultural studies?
Oh wow! Thank you so much. The advice I would give would be research the course and also the course provider well to ensure you are taking the right course for you and are happy with the services that the provider offers. Secondly enjoy it! You will learn so much and it is, as I have found first hand, invaluable knowledge especially if you are looking to pursue a career in horticulture. Lastly I would say revise hard as it is quite a complex subject once you scratch beneath the surface. Visit as many gardens as you can, especially the RHS gardens and partner gardens can give you a lot of supporting info first hand.
4. Of all the benefits of an RHS membership which one has been the most valuable to you?
The main benefit I get from my RHS membership is the free entry to RHS Gardens and partner gardens especially Harlow Carr in Harrogate. I must admit I’m a little obsessed with the place which has led me to take various family members and friends there on days out at all times of year. It is a wonderful place in every season, but my two favourite times of year are the very end of May when the walk along the stream is at its best, with the colours of the Candelabra primulas reflecting in the water. It’s magical. The other time is December which is an unlikely time for visiting a garden but it is when I take my Mum, great nieces, my oldest friend and her three little ones there to have stories with Santa. The garden still looks great even at this time of year as there has been careful planning to incorporate shrubs and trees with winter interest for the fabulous ‘Winter Walk’. I recommend a visit at any time of year, you will not be disappointed…and they have a Betty’s tea rooms!!!
5. Show off or keep off. Is your garden your own private sanctuary for peace and reflection or would you rather share it to inspire others?
I love my garden. It is the place I unwind after tending to other people’s gardens. I do wish I had more time to spend on it but then who does have enough time? It is on the small side so sharing it would have to be a well orchestrated operation! But inspiring others to enjoy their own garden is something I am truly passionate about. I love entertaining in the garden and have recently purchased a fire pit so that we can enjoy some starry nights around the fire over the winter months with a lovely cup of mulled wine.
6. We know you’re passionate about horticulture but we also know you’re a lover of fashion. Is it possible to combine the two passions and how?
I do feel that my fashion degree and my experience in my previous life in fashion retail management has given me real transferable skills that I use daily in horticulture. Using my knowledge of colour placement, design skills, balance and visual arrangement to get the best out of a planting scheme really helps me get the most out of gardening and plants.
7. If money were no object what would be your luxury garden purchase (e.g. water feature, prized orchid etc)
My purchase would be the very overgrown disused allotment that is adjacent to my garden. I would take down the five, thirty foot conifers that dominate it and create a wildflower and fruit tree orchard, a perfect wildlife haven. It would have a circular ‘hobbit style’ door connecting it to my existing garden. Every morning I look out of our bedroom window upon said allotment and think, “One day you will be mine!”
8. Let us into the secret… Where do you get your garden design inspiration from? We won’t tell, promise.
I pick up inspiration from all over the place in many formats. My main sources are magazines such as Gardeners World and RHS’s The Garden. The many fantastic show gardens at RHS Chatsworth, Chelsea and Tatton, especially the stunning garden by Lara Behr for Macmillan at RHS Tatton Flower Show this year, which had personal resonance. I get lots of fabulous plant inspiration from GardenTags and love to get ideas from the friendly online community of gardeners. My wish list keeps on growing from all the inspiration I get from people sharing their stunning plant photos.
9. Please don’t be shy, we all learn from our mistakes… What been your biggest planting failure?
Ooooh that’s a hard one. I think it’s probably my veggie bed. I have now given up on veg in my garden due to my failings. I’m fine with veg in my clients gardens, they grow fabulously, but in mine it just doesn’t work out. I do think in my own garden I have a veg curse! It’s most likely due to where the raised veg bed is sited as it’s rather shady but it was in when we moved in. I have failed so badly with veg that the area is now a wildflower patch and it’s really worked out well for both of us this year!
10. And now you can show off… What’s been your biggest planting success?
My proudest plant success story is the propagation of my Passiflora from a cutting taken from my wedding bouquet. At first I didn’t know what plant it was but liked the leaf shape. Six months later it produced a flower and when it opened I was so excited to finally be able to identify what it was. Now there are plants propagated from this plant growing in my mother in law’s and parent’s gardens and the original plant has gone from strength to strength.
11. If you had to be sent to a desert island (well, an island with favourable growing conditions) what plant would you take and why?
It would have to be the humble Digitalis purpurea (Foxglove). There is no other plant that expresses the cottage garden look as well as the Digitalis, in my opinion. It is statuesque, has a relaxed look, hails summer, flowers for a very long period and the bees and insects are in love with it’s trumpet shaped blooms, what’s not to love.
12. What’s up next in @mrsflowerpot’s growing story?
After completing my RHS level 2 NVQ in the summer I have been inspired to develop the skills learnt on the course and also utilise my previous knowledge from my Fashion degree by working towards a Diploma in Garden Design. This winter I will be doing some intense design work whilst it is quieter on the gardening front during the colder months. Hopefully this will put me in a good position to be ready to complete the diploma in early summer and take Mrs Flowerpot Garden Care to the next level and progress it to a fully fledged design and maintenance business.
Wish me luck! (“Good luck” from the GardenTags team 🙂 )
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This guest blog is part of our Growing Stories guest blog series. If you have a story to tell please email us on firstname.lastname@example.org to find out how to take part.
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