Here is customer trial panel member Stephen Hackett’s profile – we’ll feature updates from his garden in the coming months.

Customer trial panel member profile - Stephen Hackett

Stephen Hackett

My earliest gardening memories are of helping my dad in his big gumboots, of running wild in my great aunt’s huge (or so it seemed to a small boy) garden in Hertfordshire, full of horseradish and apple trees, and of eating fresh redcurrants at my grandparents’ home in Yorkshire. The smell of warm, damp compost in the greenhouse takes me back to my Grandad Dickinson’s garden every time I slide open the door.

The thing that gets me most excited is a really good, big old-fashioned kitchen garden – Felbrigg Hall in Norfolk is my favourite.

Of people gardening today, Monty Don is the one who inspires me most: an excellent gardener, a fine writer, and organic to his fingertips. Dan Pearson is another gardener whose work I follow closely and Joy Larkcom is hard to beat on the vegetable side.

In my 20s I got interested in wildlife gardening (Chris Baines was my inspiration there) and in herbs. Since then I have gardened as a hobby for about 25 years, the last 17 of them here at our home in Salisbury.

In 2010 I retired from my career in education and took up gardening as a part-time job – alongside looking after my two small children and cooking good food for my hard-working wife – and I did an RHS Certificate at Sparsholt College in Hampshire. The gardens I work in are all private houses, along with a school, and they give me even more scope to develop new skills and experiment a bit.

My garden
The garden here is a typical Victorian terraced plot – over 100’ long and 20’ wide at the back. The layout has ‘evolved’ over the years, with lawns getting ever smaller and borders expanding to accommodate more plants. The orientation is east-west, so the north-facing side is in more or less permanent shade. Over the past couple of years I have replanted the front garden (50’ x 20’) – initially as a dry-shade garden, but since the loss of a 70 year old apple tree, it has acquired a lot more sun, and the options for planting have opened up considerably. I have an unheated greenhouse, and a very small pond. The planting is a mixture of herbaceous perennials, specimen shrubs, and year-round bulbs: if I have particular passions, they would have to include clematis, herbs and heucheras.

I also have an allotment nearby, where I grow vegetables and soft fruit, and where I am growing more and more flowers for cutting too.

The soil here in South Wiltshire is pretty poor – very alkaline, and full of ‘Wiltshire Potatoes’ (or flints, as they are more commonly known), but free-draining in the main. The allotment is on quite a sharp east-facing slope, so is very exposed to cold winds: raised beds are essential to create decent growing conditions. The weather, however, is generally kind and we suffer relatively few hard frosts.

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