Mr Plant Geek
Michael Perry is the UK very own Mr Plant Geek who travels the world unearthing new finds like the TomTat (a Tomato top with Potatoes for roots) The Fuchiaberry ( a Fuchsia with tasty edible berries) and my favourite the Egg & Chips ( a Aubergine with Potatoes for roots) Having worked for many years at Thompson & Morgan in a variety of positions, Michael is now forging out on his own to discover more wonderful and exciting plants from across the planet. Also, he was recently voted one of the 20 most influential Horticulturist by the Sunday Times, so we are sure he is a man who can help sculpt the future of gardening and veg growing
Dan: So, Michael where did it all begin for you and your green fingered ways can you remember the thing that just captivated you and started you on your journey.
Michael: I was bitten by the gardening bug when I was probably just 6-7 years old. I was working in my grandparents garden most weekends, and getting used to stamping out earwigs on the ground to protect the dahlias, sowing radish seed, taking geranium cuttings, and all those type of jobs. It soon meant I completely took over my parents garden, to their actual delight!
Dan: Your well known for bringing to the fore some great plants but are there two/three plants that you would love to find some way of fusing together to create a dream plant for you.
Michael: I wouldn’t want to give away any ideas here!! But, wouldn’t it be great to have one plant that gave all the vegetables you needed for one meal?! Space-saving, fun and practical!
Dan: It certainly would be and lucrative to the inventor!
Dan: So, Michael your marooned on an island in the middle of nowhere but luckily you have one book, one song and most importantly one packet of seeds with you what are your choices for your Desert Island Veg?
Michael: Clever question! Do they have to be gardening answers though??
Dan: Any thing you want gardening or not
The book would be something interesting and reference, rather than a story book, then I could dip in and out. Maybe something like ‘Cultivated Plants of the World’, I love that book!
Song?? One song! You’d get sick of it whatever it was.. maybe I’ll choose something long and instrumental, like Enigma or something! Mind you, I prefer Girls Aloud, but that would annoy me sooner! Seed packet would have to be an edible, otherwise I’d be very dumb! I’ll choose a good mixture of cut and come again salads…!
Dan: You’re a well-travelled man Michael but could you say one place here at home in the UK and one place anywhere else on the planet that you would recommend if at all possible people should try to visit just once and why you feel it’s worth making that bit of effort to go there.
Michael: In the UK, I would say Bath- it has such a nice vibe, and of course you can have a bath on a roof! Overseas, hmm, where to choose?? Perhaps I’ll go for Williamsburg in New York, as it’s packed with trendy houseplant stores!
Dan: What are your plans/goals/hopes for this year? any exiting new plants on the horizon or a campaigns you would like pursue? I’m v impressed with your willingness to try a new venture for the good of others your mud plugger run in aid of Perennial comes to mind or your trek through a jungle for The Alzheimer’s Society even getting naked for `world naked gardening day`!
Michael: Yep, I am always up for a challenge! Right now, my challenges are less than physical though! I am more focussed on developing my brand, defining my projects and launching cool brands… so, indeed, watch this space! I will return to charity work, but I think people need a rest from me at the moment.. you can’t ask people for cash too often!
Dan: Michael, we all have a veg/plant that grows well for us and some that just never seems to happen what is your Veg/Plant Heaven and Veg/Plant Hell?
Michael: These questions are such fun! Veg plant heaven would be my favourite, broad beans…! Hell is harder, as I enjoy all vegetables.. maybe I would choose something awkward to prepare, like Jerusalem Artichokes!
Dan: What plant are you most proud of bringing to the notice of the many whether it be a new plant or and old favourite that has been lost in time?
Michael: Another tough question.. too many to choose from! I think the fuchsia berry gives me the most buzz, because I introduce people to it, and they are terrified it’s poisonous! I’m like.. no- they are edible and they taste GOOD!
Dan: Michael all us veg plotters all want to know if you have a little patch at home that you can lose yourself in for 5mins and what do you like to grow in it.
Michael: I am pretty much a digital nomad these days, so have zero time for growing, which disappoints me a lot. That’ll change one day, but for now I must enjoy it passively, through browsing Instagram and such!
Dan: Who has been the biggest influence in you in horticultural journey so far and who do you if anyone aspire to be like in their influence over a certain field in plants and horticulture
Michael: I would say my old boss at T&M, Mr Hansord. He pushed me along and make me believe in myself, and I have learnt his marketing skills, which blend perfectly with my own plant knowledge! I am pleased at how I influence others online, and through my various speeches at colleges and RHS events.
In June 2020 we had a catch up with Michael to see what hes been up to?
Dan:Hi Michael how are you doing? How have you been coping in these troubled times?
Michael: I’m doing good, I was actually in an apartment for most of lockdown, but I actually got quite into windowsill growing. I managed to try a lot of innovative plants, so I made it into a big learning curve!
Dan: Since we last met much has happened, you’re still a regular in print, tv and social media, and you have many offshoots, like your Rude Botany brand. But I imagine your “new garden with attached house” will be filling up your time for the foreseeable future? Have you got big plans for your first garden?
Michael: Oh my gosh, I haven’t had a base for so long, I’d forgotten how indecisive I can be. At the moment, I’m trying to find the absolute perfect table and chairs, and it seems impossible. I have quite a few plans, but I also have a short attention span, so I might need to make sure I choose something that can evolve and change over time
Dan: Tell us a bit more about how its laid out at the moment?
Michael: Well, I actually bought the house off my friends, so they landscaped it. However, I want to make some changes! I’d like to get rid of the lawn, and create an elevated walkway and some decking, and definitely change the fences!
Dan: Are there any existing features that lend themselves to being enhanced?
Michael: I think it’s good to make the most of the brick wall of the garage, I’m toying with painting this though. It can then be the perfect backdrop for a range of different plants.
Dan: Almost all flower and garden shows have been cancelled or postponed due to Covid-19 How do you think it will affect them long term? The big ones and the village type ones?
Michael: Hopefully, it’s just a year out. It makes me too sad to think about it, to be honest. Virtual elements are possible, but they are really not the same.
Dan: Your well know for being the creator of some fantastic multi use plants the Tom Tat comes to mind. Are you still active in the world of dual-purpose plants?
Michael: Not quite, but I do like to keep my ear to the ground, and speak to lots of different breeders and swap ideas with them. Who knows, in my new garden, I might start experimenting with some crazy things again
Dan: Do you think that the ever-growing population situation we face on the planet, mean that these sort of plants will become more than just an interesting side show, and maybe a vital part of feeding the planet?
Michael: It will be interesting if people start to understand ornamental edibles a bit more, that is plants that look good but can also be used in the kitchen. That’s the type of dualpurpose plant that will be useful!
Dan: Michael do you have a favourite season in the year?
Michael: It’s always the one that I’m in at the time! Although, a lot has to be said for spring, it’s when everything bursts into life, and the colours are always at the most vivid. To be honest, summer is perhaps my least favourite, because everything gets a bit tired and brown… and hasn’t yet got that autumn glow!
Dan: Is your new garden going to have a little corner for your own veg patch?
Michael: I’ve actually got a vegepod on order, so yes!
Dan: Michael you’re a well-travelled man whats your view on permaculture and its workings and principals?
Michael: I haven’t looked enough into it, but I will make a note to visit a nursery in the near future. From what I can see, it looks very interesting, and productive.
Dan: Michael do you have one tip for everyone on how to grow a certain veg/plant that people often struggle with?
Michael: Basil, water it from below.
Dan: Michael amazingly Queen Victoria has just turned up in a time machine with a mission in mind for you! She wants you to design and plant up Osbourne House from new, you have the time machine and you may have three people on your team from any time you chose. So Michael who is on your Garden Dream Team?
Michael: Oh my gosh, I’m not sure. You have to remember I’m not a garden designer myself, I’m just an ideas man. For this, I would choose Ann-Marie Powell the Chelsea Gold Medal winning designer, Ula Maria the award winning landscape designer and Jo Thompson the architectual landscape designer- lets have a powerful team of women on board!
Dan: With all this excitement about you working on Osbourne House, you are in demand! But which show will you choose Strictly Come Dancing, I’m a Celeb Get Me Out Of Here, Great British Bake Off or SAS Who Dares Wins?
Michael: It would have to be Great British Bake Off, and I can educate people on the wonder of edible flowers!
Dan: And Finally whats next for The Plant Geek, anymore naked runs through forests for charity?
Michael: Not yet! I do have quite a few plans actually, I had a meeting with my assistant this week, and we are planning a bit of a rebirth to all the activities. So, watch this space!
Dan: Indeed we will!
You can follow Michael on twitter @mr_plantgeek on facebook and instagram
His website www.mrplantgeek.com where you can get your hands on some off his good looking and fun range of clothing