Pippa Greenwood is a name synonymous with gardening in Britain. After training as a Botanist and gaining her MSc in Crop Protection, she spent 11 years in charge of the RHS Wisley plant pathology department. She is an Author of countless best-selling books, is a long-standing knowledgeable voice on BBC 4 Gardeners Question Time and has been a regular on our tv screens both in front and behind the screen for over 25 years.
Hello Pippa and welcome to Who’s on the Grapevine how have you been in these challenging last few months?
Well, what a year! I’ve been so lucky, I’ve escaped the horrors of it really, just tucked myself away a little more than usual. For me the worst downside personally so far has been not being able to see my friends as easily as before and on the work front, so many talks I should have been giving have had to be cancelled or postponed…and I really love the proper eye-to-eye contact of a talk at a gardening club!
Pippa 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?
Cauliflowers. I just cannot grow then, they simply don’t do what they should….the only good thing is that I’m not too keen on eating them either, but I still find it frustrating! And Raspberries are my heaven!
Pippa 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?
The book, I’m assuming it’s a novel, 84 Charring Cross Road. Brilliant book. And the seeds, tomatoes, probably ‘Losetto’ if there is blight on the island…if I opt out of the song, can I smuggle in a bulb of garlic and a few basil seeds too???
For you Pippa we will allow it
We are blessed in this country with many beautiful gardens, estates, and areas to visit all around the country. Where would you recommend people to visit once when they get the chance? And why?
Just visit any and all that you can, I do and have rarely been disappointed. The key is to find out a bit about the garden first and see whether you are even likely to enjoy it, there is such a range, formal, wild, veg-orientated, the season.
I see you were the gardening consultant on the gardening detective tv show Rosemary & Thyme how did that come about? What did it involve you doing?
It was fantastic fun, it came my way and I leaped at it. I spent a lot of time checking scripts for gardening/plant accuracy and logic e.g. no picking of daffodils if there are dahlias in the background, I was also sometimes responsible for working up the gardening mystery (not the murder mystery) part…..but I am now rather better informed about 101 ways to finish someone off in a garden!
And did you get a walk on part?
No, but I did watch some of the filming, what an amazing duo of actresses Felicity and Pam were….and a lot of fun.
Pippa do you have a favourite season of the year? And why?
Definitely not winter, the only good thing about winter is log fires and when snow starts falling . I’m tied between spring because it is simply so exciting and so full of promise and spring flowers….and a relief after winter, and autumn because I LOVE autumn colour and walking with dry leaves beneath my feet…….but spring wins.
Almost all flower and garden show were cancelled or postponed due to Covid-19 How do you think it will affect them long term?
I’m sure that, when it is safe to do so, all the garden shows will be back, they’re a serious part of gardening life and so loved by all who go to them, we need them back so I am sure they will return.
Pippa how is your garden at home laid out? I imagine that all the many gardens you have worked on and seen over the years, that it must be a struggle trying to interweave all the different styles?
My garden is very much a normal garden…including untidiness and a washing line! I do have a rather greater emphasis on edibles than average, two sizeable veg plots (I do like trying out new veg and of course also grow the entire range that I offer on my website, so it all needs space)….and I love fruit too so we have lots of fruit trees and just this year I planted another twenty raspberry canes…..watch this space! To be fair, three out of four of us are vegetarian!
And what sort of soil do you have to contend with?
It is heavy clay and strongly alkaline…and over the years has had unthinkable quantities of well-rotted manure, compost etc incorporated in to it…..but you can still tell it is clay!
Do you find your training as a botanist/plant pathologist as to a lesser/greater extent dictated how you created your garden? Or are you more organic in the way it is created?
No, not at all, I garden and enjoy gardening because I love plants and gardens (and gardening people!) and always have done, since long before I did my botany degree or my plant pathology
Do you grow much in polytunnels or a greenhouse?
We have a couple of greenhouses, one only I grow things in, a lovely western red cedar affair with a brick base, my dream type of greenhouse which I bought as a very special treat when I inherited some money. So the classic really, seed raising and young plant growing on, some early crops eg spuds in bags, some off-season salads and zillions of tomatoes, sweet peppers and aubergines. My son grows better cucumbers than I, so he grows those in the other, smaller greenhouse!
From your many articles and appearances on tv/radio we can tell you have a strong passion for all things nature but who/what do credit with giving you your enthusiasm for all things gardening? and who have you admired/respected most over the years for their contribution to the world of horticulture/gardening?
I owe it all to my lovely mother. She’s sadly no longer with me in person, but she’s still there in my heart – she taught me so much, all from a very young age, mostly just by watching, talking and getting involved.
With the ongoing constraints forcing us to change our habits, are there any little things you are appreciating more in nature that are all around us every day and maybe sometimes we all take for granted?
Not really, I’m lucky enough to be based at home for most of my working week, so I’m very fortunate and get to enjoy my wild surroundings anyway.
Apart from your own excellent books, what is the best garden book you have ever read or book that you would turn to if there is something you are not sure on?
I think one of the most useful books, especially for someone getting to know plants, is the old edition of the Readers Digest Encyclopaedia. Simpler alphabetical listing, tells you about the plants, common cultivars, basics of cultivation etc. But it does need to be the older edition.
We have seen an extra boom in the interest in Gardening, Growing Veg and nature in general over the last few months and years. From the young to the old, but how do you think we can best keep the interest and people involved in gardening/nature and maybe encourage more to join us?
It is brilliant, isn’t it! Millions of newer or rediscovering gardeners, made my year! THE silver lining in a rather gloomy grey cloud! I guess to talk and encourage and pass on help and information at every opportunity and to be honest about our own failures and problems!
Do you think horticulture/nature studies should be included in the curriculum for younger children?
I think the saddest thing is that so many parents don’t do it themselves, I loved allowing my kids to develop a serious interest in plants, bugs and beasties and all things environmental…not in an instructional way, just as part of their everyday lives. But yes, it would be good if it were part of the school day and also good if things like the dreaded A ‘Level biology syllabus had some more whole animal and plant parts to it…it is horrible now, don’t think I ever would have wanted to go down the route I did if the A ‘Level was as grim as it is now. They need to be reminded that plants exist and there is more to both animals and plants than cells and biochemistry!
We all growing, but what is the greatest lengths or depths your love of growing have taken you too in the name of Fruit & Veg?
Well, depths in terms of pests, being filmed whilst describing the (then newly arrived) New Zealand flatworm as it slimed across the palm of my hand.
Pippa you write, lecture, tweet and appear on the radio but which medium do you enjoy most? And which one do you feel delivers your message best?
I think they’ve all got their place but I have to say I LOVE doing GQT, it is really the best job ever (far more fun than the many years I spent on GW!) and the more personal side to a gardening talk is wonderful too.
Exciting news Pippa you have just launched your new website tell us more?
Its back! After nearly a year without a website, I am thrilled that I’m now out there. With my Grow Your Own with Pippa Greenwood veg-growing (may own, possibly mad idea) where you get to choose which of the veg we offer you’d like to grow then we send them to you as garden-ready plants in logical quantities. They’re fab quality (and I can say that as I don’t grow them all myself!) they are grown for me by a truly fantastic grower in Lincolnshire and sent out by them in paper and card (no plastic). But what makes it unique is that each week you receive an email from me with all you need to know about how to get the best possible results. As I mentioned, I grow the entire range myself and so know what’s actually happening each week, so can then send seriously real-life info on when to feed, pinch out, support, watch for pests, deal with diseases and more. It really is veg growing made easy, so perfect for new gardeners, but that said, I have plenty of lovely loyal and very accomplished gardeners who come back year after year. I am also selling some of my favourite gardening items and of course my ‘Ask Pippa’ service is back too, together with the chance to book me to give a gardening talk (if and when allowed!)
Pippa great news Henry VIII has just turned up in a time machine and he wants you to design and plant up Hampton Court Palace gardens. He has said you can have three people to help you, and as he has a time machine you can chose people from the past or present. So Pippa who is your Garden Dream Team?
For serious hard graft, a lot of skill and a We-will-make-it work attitude, I’d definitely have my son as one. Then my large black and white cat as he HAS to be with me in the garden at home so would HAVE to come with me to the palace too…and, this is a bit of a cheat really, I’d have the rest of the GQT team for inspiration and ‘banter’ ! We travel as one, you see!
Fair enough im sure we can squezze them all in
Pippa could you give the readers of any great tips for their plots for coming season how to sow a seed, better germination, something/knowledge handed down that works for you.
Don’t give up if it goes wrong the first time…or even after a few goes and, when it comes to seeds, little and often is usually the answer, especially when it comes to veg!
Whats your favroite veg fresh from the ground or pod
Most of it? If I can’t say that then fresh-picked sweetcorn
Pippa are you much of a fruit grower? I for one love a fresh summer Strawberry or a crisp Apple freshly picked?
I am a total devotee of Raspberries, as you’ll know from my confession above.
Finally, what’s the future hold for you? Are there any projects or plans you hope to get off the ground in the near future?
Who knows, I love what I do now, so more of the same really…..I am so looking forward to having GQT back on the road with a REAL audience, the virtual shows are really good fun and the few suitably spaced non-audience shows we have recorded have been great as I’ve got to see a few of the other panellists…but nothing is quite the same as a real audience full of real gardeners!
Pippas new website is at www.pippagreenwood.com
Her books are avalible at all good bookstores
You can Follow her on Twitter: @pippagreenwood