Meet the Gardener: Ellen @ellenmarygardening

I am so so so excited to have Ellen Mary share her answers to my Meet the Gardener questions. Ellen is a huge inspiration for me- she is so knowledgeable about all things plants, and has really led the way in making gardening modern. Ellen has so many exciting projects- including her new wellbeing site AND she has just had a book published. The wonder-woman of the gardening world, Ellen is definitely one to follow if you don't already: @ellenmarygardening @peopleplantswellbeing @plant_based_podcast

(Plus Ellen plays netball- which I also love- maybe we need a gardening netball team?!)

Tell us a bit about you and when you started gardening and why?

I have loved gardening ever since I was a child. We had a kitchen garden where I used to pinch the peas straight of the pods from and my Uncle had a garden where I used to help him pick the caterpillars off his cabbages! Those memories are with me all every time I step into a garden. Then in my early 30's I had a life changing operation and I needed the garden even more than ever. Gardening for me is now an essential part of my overall wellbeing from absorbing all of the physical and mental health benefits to eating a plant based diet. You could call it a healthy addiction! Simply can't beat the satisfaction from growing your own food and nurturing a garden. 

What’s the most ambitious gardening project you have completed or planned?

After I studied for my RHS qualifications I actually designed gardens for clients. I ended up moving into horticultural broadcasting and away from design but there were a few big projects I completed including a large kitchen garden in the countryside and a smaller urban garden with some pretty expensive materials. But overall, I think developing my garden by the coast over about 11 years was the biggest project. It was turned from mainly lawn to a fully established walled wildlife haven and I loved it!

What is your favourite thing to grow?

Everything! Honestly, I just can't answer this. Also it varies day to day and depending on how I feel! Every plant is a little miracle and so they are all my favourites.

Anything new you would like to try in the next growing season?

 I've just taken on another half of an allotment plot so have lots of plans. I wrote down everything I want to grow and there was waaaay too much for the space! I think that is a problem every gardener has. The excitement is too much! So I spent some time thinking about what to grow based on food I would like to cook with. So, I have quinoa, soy beans, bitter melon and a few bits that I am hoping will germinate. Keep your eye on my instagram page!

Where is your favourite garden in the world and why?

I have been incredibly privileged to travel all around the world and visit some of the most incredible gardens from botanical to community and privately owned. The view and feel of Sydney Botanic Garden is wonderful, Singapore Gardens by the Bay is mind blowing and what a surprise the Butterfly Garden was in Dubai but I love a story! Winghaven in North Carolina is now a charity but once the garden of Elizabeth Lawrence. I stumbled on the garden in North Carolina some years ago and watched a film about her before meandering the garden she has created. Elizabeth was a wildlife gardener who wrote for many publications and was the first female to graduate with a landscape degree from North Carolina State University in 1933. I would expect she came across a great deal of resistance at the time. Her love of wildlife gardening has completely transformed a neighbourhood and her legacy continues to inspire people to this day. She experimented, bucked trends and theories by growing plants otherwise thought to be impossible in NC. The garden is magical and it's where I found my first Hummingbird.

What do you wish you’d known earlier about gardening?

Not to be so concerned about rules. The best way to garden is to experiment.

What advice would you give to someone new to gardening?

 Have fun, do your own thing but take in some advice and ideas from others. Never be worried about killing something, that's how we learn.

When not gardening what do you like doing?

I love reading, meditating and I am a big basketball fan! You can also find me playing GD for a netball team and hanging out with my friends.

Anything else you’d like to share?

My new book is being released in May 2021 and is now on pre order. It has some useful practical tips but also all about how gardening is intrinsically linked to wellbeing. So there are life lessons and wellbeing ideas that you can do as you garden. It's been a dream to write a book, so I guess dreams do come true! It's called The Joy of Gardening; the everyday zen of mowing the lawn



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