In conversation with Lucy Hutchings
Inspired by her new book, Get up and Grow – the garden was a dream come true for Lucy and was a fantastic opportunity to pass on her knowledge to those considering growing their own for the first time.
(Photos: Get Up and Grow)
We caught up with Lucy afterwards to find out a little more about her love for gardening and where it stems from…
What was your inspiration behind your garden at the Hampton Court Garden Festival?
Space is a luxury these days for a lot of people, especially those living in more built up and urban areas. If you don't have a lot of space at your disposal, you do not necessarily want to have to choose between having a beautiful outside space and a productive one that provides an abundance of different food. I wanted to show that you don't need to choose between ornamental and edible and you can create a really stunning 100% edible garden that will be as pretty as it is productive.
How did you first get into gardening?
I didn't have the usual path into horticulture. I used to work in the fashion industry and ran my own couture jewellery label for nearly a decade. Though I got to do all sorts of exciting things including working with celebrities and glossy magazines, I was never really happy. The fashion industry probably just wasn't a good fit for a girl that grew up running wild in the countryside. So, when I reached a turning point in the business where I was going to either have to bring in investors and grow or stop all together, I took the decision to walk away. All through my life including during my career in fashion, I had always had a few edible plants on the go. I had no real idea of what I was doing and I suspect that if you had asked me at the time I would to have even really registered it as a hobby, it was just something that made me really happy. At the end of 2017 I was going through a really stressful event and was in some serious need of some distraction. So it was to growing food that I turned as it was something that had always made me genuinely and uncomplicatedly happy. I started researching heritage, heirloom and forgotten edibles and got really interested in trying to grow as many of them as I could. At the same time, I set up my Instagram account @shegrowsveg in order to share my experiences and learn from likeminded people around the world. I quickly realised I had found my niche and began courses to retrain in horticulture and garden design with the initial plan of becoming an edible garden designer. Though that is not the role I have ultimately ended up in, I am beyond happy with the career I have found myself with and I have never regretted my decision to leave the fashion industry.
What is your favourite thing that you have grown and why?
My favourite thing to grow has always been and I suspect will always be heirloom tomatoes. The they bring me unrivalled joy every season with the veritable rainbow of abundance that they provide and are a kitchen staple throughout the year. Some of my other highlights have not necessarily been about quantity, but are more about finding joy in small victories. I had my first Szechuan pepper harvest recently; it was only a small handful of peppercorns but the fact that I had grown them myself felt particularly rewarding. I am currently experimenting with growing tropical fruit from seed and it will be amazing if I can actually get any of them to fruit over the years to come.
(Photo: Lucy Hutchings @shegrowsveg)
Why do you think being educated in gardening is so important?
I don't necessarily think it is important to be formally educated in horticulture but I would say that trial an error is by far the best way to learn. Books etc can teach you a certain amount but they can't teach you about your own growing space, the only way to learn about that is to try stuff and not be afraid to get a little experimental. You may find that you have some little micro climates going on and by trying lots of different things, even a few that you are not sure will work, you will learn loads about what the limits of your space and abilities are. It won't always work but that's fine, don't be afraid of failure, it will make you a better grower in the long run.
If someone was looking to get into gardening and growing their own food, what would you suggest they start with?
I often get asked what are the best crops for a novice gardener and I always say the same thing. Don't select your crops based on what is supposedly easy. Take a good look in your fridge and make a list of what you actually eat throughout the year. These are the crops that are going to really make a difference to you if you can grow them and will ultimately bring the greatest reward. It is better to invest a little extra effort in learning to grow the things you actually eat; it will be far more rewarding than growing something 'easy' that you don't generally enjoy.
What is your favourite Harrod Horticultural product and why?
Harrod Horticultural has so many game changing products it's genuinely hard to choose but I would have to go with the Roman Arch that I used as the focal point in my Hampton Court Garden. The design is sleek and versatile and works in both classic and contemporary gardens. There are loads of food crops that can be grown over arches such as beans, cucumbers, melons, squash and gourds. By growing these crops vertically, they take up a huge amount less space and it means you can turn what would usually be void space over a pathway into abundant growing room.
(Photo: Lucy Hutchings @shegrowsveg)
What advice would you give to someone looking to grow their own produce in a small garden?
Look for ways to make the most of all the space you have, such as growing vertically up walls and over arches and tunnels. Think of how you want your garden to look. It may be that the classic raised bed kitchen garden aesthetic is exactly what you are aiming for. However, if you want a more ornamental look consider creating edible borders. Design wise you approach them just like you would a purely ornamental flower border but interplant edible plants, fruit, veg and flowers to an equally beautiful effect.
A big thank you to Lucy for speaking with us and we're sure all the gardening advice in her fantastic new book will be an inspiration to many!
You can get yourself a copy of Lucy's new book today - Get Up and Grow
And to follow her gardening journey be sure to follow her on Instagram @shegrowsveg