15 Minutes… Sue Kent

Mar 26, 2024 | Featured Articles, Interviews



15 Minutes… Sue Kent

Mar 26, 2024 | Featured Articles, Interviews

Who or what helped you along your way in pursuing a career in gardening despite your upper limb disability?
BBC Gardener’s World are very supportive – Toby Buckland and Frances Tophill have been very encouraging, providing guidance along the way. The RHS gave me the opportunity to create a show garden which was a huge educational experience, and in making me one of their ambassadors have given me the potential to reach a wider, more inclusive audience and make changes for the better.

You’re passionate about garden ideas and designs that make gardening easy and enjoyable for all ages and abilities. How can people create an easier to manage garden at home?
One of the easiest ways is to choose the right plants and use them in an efficient way. Block planting – mapping your garden into square blocks instead of rows, and planting close together – is one of many options, and works well in raised beds for access. Gardening in containers involves watering, which is hard work, so I like to use reservoir systems to make things easier.

What resources are out there for people with disabilities who want to get more involved in gardening?
The RHS have a signposting page to help people find a wealth of resources for gardening with disabilities: www.rhs.org.uk/advice/health-and-wellbeing/gardening-with-a-disability

Are there plans for even more ways to improve accessibility and inclusion?
I am looking at ways to encourage the RHS to expand the ways of making gardening inclusive and accessible beyond the current concepts of wide pathways and raised beds. Watch this space.

As a keen veg grower, any top tips for what to grow best in our famous Devon red soil?
I believe the red soil is slightly more acidic, so leafy greens, peas and beans. Many fruits like a slightly more acid soil so good opportunity to grow loganberries, blueberries and bilberries!

Your Beautiful Borders design last year was fantastic! What are your three best pieces of advice for people gardening in compact spaces?
Keep the colour palette curated to a maximum of three colours. Follow RHS guidelines and pack your perennials into 20 – 25 plants per square metre. This keeps weeding down to a minimum and the plants support each other. Imperfections show more in a small garden, so keep on top of pruning the plants to keep them at their best.

You’ll be talking about these topics and I’m sure many others at this year’s Toby’s Garden Festival on 3rd – 4th May at Powderham Castle. What can we expect to hear more of at the event?
I love talking garden design and plant choices to make life easier. I have a completely new area in my garden with four new flowerbeds so I’m sure we’ll be discussing that! I’ll also be helping people think creatively about the ways in which they can develop their skills.

What are your favourite Devon gardens to visit while you’re here?
I have been coming to Devon on holiday since I was a child, and there are so many beautiful gardens to visit – I couldn’t choose!

See Sue Kent plus Rachel de Thame, Jacquie Felix-Mitchell, Becky Searle and more at this year’s Toby’s Garden Festival. See full details about the event and get your tickets at www.tobygardenfest.co.uk

Image of Sue Kent: © Jenny Smith

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