Simon Akeroyd, aka @simonakeroydgardener, runs a hugely popular TikTok account filled with bite-sized gardening tips and clever money-saving hacks. He has been the Head Gardener or Manager at many beautiful gardens including Sheffield Park, Polesden Lacey, Harlow Carr, Wisley, Coleton Fishacre and Agatha Christie’s Greenway. When he’s not gardening, he’s writing gardening books and has published about 30 so far.
Recently shortlisted for the Garden Media Guild’s Individual Social Media Influencer of the Year Award 2023, we caught up with Simon to learn a bit about his journey as a gardener and the highlights of his career so far. Here’s what he told us…
Tell us how you got into gardening?
I was brought up very near Wisley gardens in Surrey and my parents used to drag me around there every Sunday. I didn’t used to enjoy it at the time…I wanted to be playing with my friends instead…but I guess it must have influenced me, because I ended up getting my first ever gardening job there in my early twenties and ended up working there for about ten years.
What’s your greatest gardening achievement?
Probably having my first ever gardening book published in 2008 – ‘Shrubs and Small Trees’. It was published by DK and the RHS. I’ve been very lucky and have gone on to write many more gardening books since.
How has social media impacted your gardening journey?
I must admit, I only use TikTok these days. I find that short video clips containing concise step-by-step gardening tips is a great way to introduce gardening to a new and different audience who would otherwise have never thought of picking up a trowel or dibber. My gardening tips focus on cheap, or free, gardening ‘hacks’. For most of my gardening tips, you don’t need a garden. Just a window-sill and some seeds. I’ve found TikTok is also a great way to promote and sell my gardening books.
What’s your single, most important piece of gardening advice?
My best advice is to make your own decent compost. If you make it yourself, gardening and growing plants becomes so much easier and cheaper. Homemade compost is the key to creating a sustainable garden so, if you’re new to gardening, your first job is to find a good place to put your compost heap.
How has a garden or landscape influenced your work or personal gardening style?
Probably at Coleton Fishacre in South Devon where I was Head Gardener a few years ago. Many of the plants are subtropical and are grown outside without any problem. The beautiful, lush plants grown at Coleton Fishacre could be future plant choices for other gardens in the country with the climate warming up so quickly. I’ve since planted up my own garden in South Devon with many of these ‘tender’ plants that would have been impossible to grow outside a few years ago.
If you were stuck on a desert island and could only have three plants – one practical, one beautiful, and one unusual, what would they be?
- Well, I guess my practical one would be potatoes. Then I could make chips and crisps every day. Haha!
- In terms of a beautiful plant I would probably choose Cornus kousa var. Chinensis, because you get more than one season of interest. It has impressive showy white bracts in spring, gorgeous red fruits (that you can make wine from) in summer, spectacular autumn colour and I love its gnarly trunk in winter.
- For my unusual plant, I would probably choose the shrub rose, Rosa mundi. I guess it isn’t that unusual, but it was the plant that got me first interested in gardening. I remember as a child it was growing in our garden and I was fascinated by its raspberry-ripple, swirly colours. It’s a bit like looking into a colourful kaleidoscope. It was one of the first roses to be cultivated in Europe and I’ve always grown it wherever I have lived…so I guess I would have to have it with me if living on a desert island (so long as I could get access to some decent compost to add to that sandy soil !)
I’m currently buying a smallholding on Dartmoor, where I hope to create an edible garden and start up my own gardening school called Simon Akeroyd’s Gardening Academy.
More about the Garden Media Guild Awards
Each year, the Garden Media Guild celebrates our most talented gardening professionals with a selection of coveted awards. Their shortlists feature gardeners who inspire the nation with their enthusiasm and well-communicated wisdom including authors, journalists, photographers, vloggers, podcasters and gardening influencers. The entrants are judged by their peers and experts in the field.
This year, Thompson & Morgan has sponsored the award for ‘Individual Social Media Influencer of the Year’. This special award is for “the communicator who inspires, educates or informs followers about gardening by posting regularly on one or more platforms (Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, TikTok or others), generating an engaged following, replying to questions and comments and interacting with followers.” For the full list of GMG awards, visit their website.
Since the first seed catalogue was published in 1855, Thompson & Morgan has grown to become one of the UK’s largest Mail Order Seed and Plant companies. Through the publication of our catalogues and the operation of our award-winning website, Thompson & Morgan is able to provide home gardeners with the very best quality products money can buy.