Alex and I 'met' virtually through the YPHA (Young Person's Horticultural Association) and I'm so pleased he could share his answers to my 'Meet the Gardener' questions. Alex and his brother are smashing it with their new company and have a show garden planned this year- I cant wait to follow along and see how it develops!
Hello, I am Alex Pettitt
Tell us a bit about you and when did you start gardening, and why?
I am a Landscape Architect and Director at Topoforma Landscape; a huge point in my career which was reached by starting gardening in my Mum’s vegetable garden at the age of 5. I love the design side of horticulture and the seemingly endless possibilities it offers, but I still have that passion for pottering about in a shed or green house growing fruit and veg from seeds or propagating ornamental plants!
Which gardeners inspire you and why?
Anyone who picks up a trowel and starts creating their own oasis inspire me! Even from the smallest window box or a small collection of houseplants on their desk; it reminds me that improving our surrounding environment starts with the smallest of steps. Monty Don also inspires me as a touchstone in the broader horticultural world as presenter for Gardener’s World, plus he also represents the feeling that infallibility as a person is not possible and that we all face struggles in life; he embraces life when things go wrong in the garden and uses them as an opportunity for trying something new. Plus I absolutely love his dogs!
Professionally, the great planting designers such as Piet Oudolf and Nigel Dunnett inspire me to create better planting schemes and really interrogate my design philosophies. Furthermore, they use plants I had not even thought of using in new and exciting combinations. The two of these have really strong ideas about how design can be of a benefit to the world and wildlife; how planting choices can be bold and beautiful, yet hugely valuable to pollinating insects, mammals, and birds. Gardens and gardening doesn’t have to be a battlefield between human desire and ecosystem needs!
What’s the most ambitious gardening project you’ve completed or have planned?
Working with my colleague and friend (and fellow YHPA member) James Smith on entering a garden into the 2021 RHS Tatton Park Flower Show Young Designer competition, mere months after founding Topoforma Landscape. Doing these shows have always been a goal for my career – I always thought it was somehow unattainable or such a long way off, so thank you James for kicking us out of our comfort zone!
What is your favourite thing to grow?
At the moment, I would have to say my little Avocado seedling, which shot up in no time earlier this year. My favourite usually changes with the seasons though, I have more favourites than hot dinners!
Anything new you want to try in the next growing season?
My brother and I always try to grow some species that are challenging for the UK climate to see whether it is possible; coffee, chocolate, and papaya are just a few of the oddities we will be trying this year. I am somewhat convinced we will fail in the long run, but it is always incredibly exciting to achieve even the smallest steps in the plant’s life cycle.
Where is your favourite garden in the world, and why?
Castle Ashby Gardens holds a special place in my heart! It’s a huge garden & parkland close to where I am from and it was designed by Capability Brown in the 1800s. I worked there briefly one summer, so I got the opportunity to work on the varies and fascinating estate, as well as being complemented by the public on its beauty! Somewhat undeserved on my part but enjoyable, nonetheless.
What do you wish you’d known earlier about gardening?
There is not much that I wish I had discovered sooner, but retrospectively, I would like to have developed my own eco-centric, gardening for wildlife philosophy sooner; but that is how the learning curve works, right?
What advice would you give someone new to gardening?
Try everything you can! If a plant you have dies, it is almost certainly not your fault and it does not mean you’re bad at gardening or looking after things, it just meant that it wasn’t meant to be! As chef and keen gardener, Reymond Blanc often says – C’est la vie!
When not gardening, what do you like doing?
I am a huge sports fan, if there’s any on at the weekend then I can usually be found encamped in an armchair watching it! I also enjoy music and film, pre-pandemic I used to try and get to a gig once every couple of months and I can’t wait to get back to them!
Follow Alex and his journey on the social links below:
Topoforma Instagram: @topoforma