Robin Lane Fox: five tips from a lifetime of gardening | FT

The FT’s veteran gardening columnist reflects on the techniques and philosophy that have shaped his style. Filmed with exclusive access to the gardens at New College, Oxford. See if you get the FT for free as a student ( or start a £1 trial:

This is my daily point of entrance to the new college garden which i’ve had the honour of running as garden fellow for the past 40 years i come every day through the quadrangle here and i have a sense that the garden and the flowers are waiting to delight me puzzle me and test me every morning this is an extraordinary time to see the garden there’s nobody

Else here and that’s never normally the case every warm afternoon in the summer the glass is covered with people reading books drinking coffee or kissing and my garden here is in dialogue with other people so to see it with none of them is like a duet with one part missing but i want the chance to pass on what i have tried to realize and the principles behind

The planting and what you see so that you can think them over adapt them i hope improve them but at least have a starting point gardens are edited and selected nature and in my view they often improve on nature if you left this garden simply to go wild it would be full of ground elder and bindweed which are extraordinarily boring but because i can edit

It i have blue bindweed with that wonderful morning glory flowers on the railings behind me i used to grow one called split personality thinking it was true to several of the professors in the college but i’ve decided that heavenly blue the great blue i premiere morning glory is the really beautiful one and it looks like a framed stained glass window or a

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Sketch by bern jones in early october when for the first time and we hope this year too the undergraduates come to begin their thinking careers the long border is one of the main glories of the garden now there are two principles to herbaceous borders one was enunciated by the great miss jekyll that you should plant in narrow strips and you should grade the

Colors softly leading from yellow to orange to red to down again to pink and so on following the famous system of a color wheel in the 1850s but i don’t do that here i’m thinking of uh dramatic changes of color and i think of it like a very good lunch with the ft we’re talking here about five courses one after the other but on each separate course i’m trying

To have something that is repeated down the length of the border that draws your eye right down the huge long run and vista you can enjoy when looking down it most of the plants here attach poignantly to my life biography to friends who first showed me them to places i first found them but here that dark purple dahlia is admiral rawlings which an ft reader

Sent to me unsolicited through the post about 22 years ago and i opened it and thought i just don’t want another dahlia how wrong you can be she said it was fabulous and it is there are so many other small examples that i really treasure so when i walk down the border i try to look at the hole i look at the interrelationships i see the invisible people and

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Their work finding the plants sometimes giving them to me sometimes talking to me here i see past faces past incidents past pupils i remember who loved this that or the other whereas you i hope see a blend of colors much has been written about more natural informal wilder gardening looking more like a prairie where plants interrelate naturally and aren’t in

A what i call euro gardening so about four years ago i thought i would try some of it here and it is more open and more apparently wild of course it’s still very artificial like all gardening i’m pleased with the front row at this time of the year those are three types of low-growing basically asta which anyone watching could have that within two years they

Grow beautifully and they make informal groups with the big californian tree poppy that at this time of the year is running wild but it’s absolutely untrue that this style of gardening is less laborious than our big herbaceous borders we spend more time keeping this tidy than we ever do on our big traditional beds fashion is for those who have no style so i

Ignore it i go my own way i’m aware what’s going on and i go on learning you don’t need great rarities what you need are really good varieties of first class families and for that you have to look travel read and form your own taste plow your own furrow go your own way and stick with your own changing and developing style it’s never ending but gardens never

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Ever stand still you must prepare for change and for a constant process it’s a way of life that’s why i love it

Transcribed from video
Robin Lane Fox: five tips from a lifetime of gardening | FT By Financial Times

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