— Interview with Mr. Geoff Hodge, freelance gardening and horticultural writer, author, editor and radio and TV broadcaster

Hello All,

It has been a while since I got the chance to interview someone on my blog, but today, after a long waiting time, I had the chance. Last week I have acquired a book called Botany for Gardeners by Geoff Hodge. To be honest, I am not a bookworm type of guy, but after reaching half of the book I have realised that I have spent hours and hours reading it. I am not an expert in gardening, nor in botany studies so this book really fascinated me. I have decided afterwards to look up the author and so I have met online with Mr. Geoff Hodge. I thought, I have nothing to lose so I have sent him an email asking to do an interview with him and, much to my surprise, after 24 hours I received an answer writing me that he would be happy to answer couple of my questions. Doing a written Q&A is never easy to me, because I usually have a lot of questions, but I do not want to send 3 pages of questions of my interest only. So what I did this time is that I have turned towards a Facebook gardening group. I have asked about 2000 people’s opinion and here is what I have come up with, so enjoy the interview:

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Mr. Geoff Hodge

1. First of all, can you tell us a bit about your background?

After leaving school, with an interest in plants, I did a degree in Agricultural Botany at Reading University. I chose agriculture because I used to spend summers working on my uncle’s farm and I thought everyone has to eat, so I’m bound to get a job when I graduate. After two years unemployed after graduating(!) I became a garden centre manager and started writing freelance for a couple of gardening magazines. I enjoyed it so much that I decided to do it full time. For the next three years I was the Technical Editor of Garden Answers magazine and then seven years as the Gardening Editor/Editor of Garden News magazine. Then I realised the future was digital and after setting up a couple of gardening websites, I became the Web Editor for the Royal Horticultural Society – something I did for 10 years. I have now gone back to freelance work, writing for numerous gardening magazines and websites and a host of other activities.

2. How did your interest in plants start?

An aunt bought me a gardening set when I was about five years old. The kit included some wallflower seeds, which I sowed in a wall. That’s logical for a five year old, right?! I was fascinated when they grew! I then got interested in growing vegetables and turned our garden – and our next-door neighbour’s garden (I did ask first) – into a veg plot.

3. You have worked with numerous plant species. Do you have a favorite plant or plants which are close to your heart?

Favourite plant? That’s impossible to answer. Just about all plants have some sort of fascination – whether it’s in the plant itself or in its history and background. I love the different seasons of the year and so want plants to highlight those seasons. I also love plants that can offer something different throughout all the seasons – such as the colouring of the new young growth in spring, flowers in summer, berries in autumn and colourful or interesting stems in winter.
Maybe I should say wallflowers – as they got me started – or, as I’m Welsh, Narcissus and leeks – my two national emblems.

4. You have worked together with numerous companies and organisations, including the prestigious Royal Horticultural Society. Can you share with us your experiences?

Each organisation has its own unique experiences and situations.
Sussex Country Gardens, the garden centre I managed, was renown for the wide range of plants it stocked. I learnt so much about plants and gardening while I was there, had lots of laughs – and even enjoyed unloading the compost lorries by hand.
Garden News is read by keen gardeners and meeting them at flower shows and in their gardens was great fun. Sitting on Garden News Q&A sessions was a great way to learn more about plants and gardening from the other panelists, and judging the magazine’s Gardener of the Year Competition meant driving all over the country visiting up to 80 gardens in 16 days.
Working for the RHS meant I had access to a wealth of horticultural experts and learnt a lot about building and running a highly successful website.

5. You did numerous publications, what inspired you to start writing a book and to whom do you recommend it? In case someone is interested, where can it be acquired?

What inspired me to write books? I wasn’t inspired to write them – I was approached and asked! Obviously, I was delighted to do so. I always try to make gardening as much fun and as easy as possible in all my writing, so all the books are very accessible for anyone trying to grow their “green fingers”. I was particularly keen to write Botany For Gardeners as I believe knowing just a little bit about plants and how they grow will help achieve great gardening results.
You can find them all on my online bookshop – http://astore.amazon.co.uk/gardenhortic-21

Latest Book – RHS Botany for Gardeners

6. There are many beginners and hobby gardeners/horticulturalists who are reading this blog: what are your tips or suggestions for them when they are working with plants?

My tips for success include:
Get the right plant for the right place – there’s no point planting shade lovers in full sun and vice versa, as you’re on a downward slope before you start.
Improve the soil before planting and don’t just “dig a hole and bung it in”. The roots are the most important part of any plant – get the soil right, so the roots grow well and the rest of the plant will follow naturally behind, grow strong and healthy. One of my clients calls me Geoff ‘Bulky Organic Matter’ Hodge as I’m always telling people to dig in as much of this as possible to get the soil right.
Know what to do, when to do it and how to do it. This to me is the meaning of having “green fingers”.

7. How do you see the future of gardening?

I think the future of gardening is very positive. Yes, there are several possible issues looming, such as climate change, but gardeners are very resourceful and quickly adapt to new situations.
The biggest problem is getting young people into the profession and encouraging them that horticulture is a great career. Without new, young blood the industry could stagnate and face lots of problems.

8. Finally you have a website called GardenForum Horticulture (http://www.gardenforumhorticulture.co.uk). What is the aim of your website?

The aims of my website are simple: to give gardeners somewhere they can turn for answers to gardening questions and problems; and as a shop window to potential new clients to get me work!

+1 Community Question: What are some things you think have contributed to your success in gardening?

My knowledge of botany, plants and how they grow has certainly helped. Even if I don’t know the answer to a problem or situation I can work it out logically to get the right result.

+2 Community Question: My question would be what techniques could be used to save an Amaryllis bulb that is displaying some rot, but remains firm with basal plate in tact?

I would certainly start by removing the bulb from the compost, cleaning away as much of the compost and dead leaves and scales and then cut away the rotted area with a clean, sharp knife. As there are now no fungicides approved for treating bulbs (at least, there aren’t any in the UK), there is nothing you can put on the cut surfaces, so place the bulb somewhere warm and dry so all the cut surfaces heal over as quickly as possible.

Mr. Geoff Hodge thank you for your time and for doing this interview with me.