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Gardener Interview #1
Welcome to a new series where I take a moment to have a chat with people I admire in the gardening community. For me the garden community is a special one and I wanted to take a moment to celebrate the magical people I have met along my gardening journey.
Susie Ripley is the creator of Susie Ripley Gardening, a wonderful space for garden products and inspiration. Susie is a knowledgeable and creative gardener who is generous in sharing what she knows. I recommend following her on Instagram to pick up helpful ideas and her feed is filled with beautiful images of the seeds and dahlias she sells. For me personal Susie has been a champion not just for myself but other creatives connected to gardening. She is always encouraging and always support. I am forever grateful for that.
I hope you enjoy this interview. Sign up for my paid newsletter for part two where Susie will talk about her Autumn seedling plans.
Susie, tell us about your garden?
My garden is my playground, my creative outlet, my place to connect with nature and come back to myself. It's not something to ever be finished, it will be ever evolving as I am. Although I share many photos of my garden, my garden is just for me. I don’t have the desire to share it with many, I never want to feel like it must be tidy and perfect and ready for show. As much as I love to sit back and marvel at what is growing and take in the success or failure of my planting schemes, for me the greatest joy comes from getting dirty and amongst it. I love building new soil and watching the critters break things down, shoveling the compost I’ve made. I get great satisfaction from looking at the garden when it’s thriving and knowing that it’s the healthy soil I have helped create making it thrive.
Do you have a garden style?
I have a loose style which is a mix of wild cottage with elements of structure and repetition. I have several areas of garden and I’m trying to create a different feel in each. It’s more formal and calmer at the front and the large back yard has a meadow feel and is a riot of colour. My current garden is very new and just over a year old, so a lot of structure is yet to come. It’s been temporarily taken over by my small dahlia ‘farm’ for this year’s tuber supply.
Did you start your garden with a set vision as to what it would look like?
I rarely have a set vision. I just start planting key plants and let things evolve. I love slowly building a garden and moving plants around until I’m satisfied. So much of the joy I get from gardening is playing, moving plants, finding colours and textures that I like together. It’s taken a while to figure out how to use my backyard, where I like to sit, how the sun sits, so beds have changed around as that has become clearer.
I did plan my verge garden. It’s in a public space so I wanted to get it planted and growing quickly. I enjoyed the process though I didn’t get all the plants right. Many succumbed to the wind and a few turned their toes up in the heavy soil which needs a whole lot more compost added. That will be a job for winter and spring.
Tell us a bit about your business Susie Ripley Gardening.
It's an evolving business and I am currently focused on sourcing and selling seeds for hard-to-find plants and plants I love to grow. It started with my gardening obsession and wanting plants I’d seen in Europe on my travels but couldn’t get here.
How do you manage to keep your business out of your time in the garden or is it a happy blend of your business inspiring your garden and vice versa?
It’s very much intertwined and I do find I need to have some time away to switch off from it all. My garden leads the business, however this year growing dahlias for the business has taken over. I needed every inch of space so I could grow tubers for this year's supply as importing was not an option.
What is your favourite time of the gardening year?
I love autumn. The light is beautiful, the dahlias are flowering, and I can sit back and just take it all in. I like to spend the season thinking about what plants I want to add, what seeds to sow, and which plants to divide and create more of.
What is your favourite gardening read?
Dream Plants for the Natural Garden by Henk Gerritsen and Piet Oudolf. It’s a reference book but it is written with humour, and is fantastic for learning about what conditions plants thrive in. It has handy sections like Capricious Plants and Troublesome Plants which I’ve found invaluable.
What is the best gardening tool that you have?
It has to be my golden Niwaki Spade. I spend a lot of time digging and it's wonderfully light and the perfect height for me. I find many high-quality tools at hardware stores are made for men and are harder and more tiring to use. Niwaki make many items in two sizes, and I love that.
What is your favourite go to plant which you would love to see more people growing?
I would love to see more people growing what they like. Not following trends or sticking to green and white because it’s safe. I want people to have fun and be brave with colour and plant choices. Play with plant and colour combinations until it’s how they want it.
What is the best gardening advice that someone has given you?
Get the soil right first!
Name a garden that you would like to visit and why?
Piet Oudolf's field at Hauser and Wirth art gallery and garden in Somerset, UK. Fortunately, I’ll be visiting it later this year. I want to experience what it feels like being in one of his gardens or ‘fields’. A lot of perennials we sell the seeds for are planted en masse here and I can’t wait to see that in person.
Name a gardener that inspires you?
I glean so much from many amazing gardeners. A lot I’ve found through Instagram, but my good friend Violet Faigan really inspires me the most. Her plantings are a work of art and so true to her. I love that she plants what she loves in the way she wants it. We are all influenced by what we see others do, and it’s great to incorporate other ideas, but I really admire people who do it their own way, and not to a prescribed plan. Everyone has a different garden ‘canvas’ to work with and so everyone’s garden should vary to suit. Your soil type, amount of drainage, and how much sun and heat you get should guide what you plant.
What are your garden goals for the coming garden year?
To keep working on creating intimate spaces, little nooks to sit in and enjoy it all. This means planting a lot more trees and shrubs.
Name a dream plant that you love that you would love to have in your garden?
I really want to have some Foxtail lilies, eremurus. I have sourced seeds and I’m going to try germinating them soon. Fingers crossed I’ll have some next summer.
All the photos in this newsletter are from Dahlias that Susie grows and sells. For more Susie sign up to her newsletter by hitting subscribe via her website.
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