Being John Plant; The Yorkshire Gardener

By Andy McIndoe

I caught up with John Plant on twitter @johnplant60. He suggested I took a look at his garden, Rewela Cottage, Skewsby, Yorkshire on the National Garden Scheme website. John opens his garden to visitors through the scheme in May and July. It looks simply amazing: a treasure trove of unusual trees and shrubs along with architectural subjects and many other plant gems. The garden is around three quarters of an acre, with some ambitious and beautifully done hard landscaping which blends seamlessly with the planting.

John is a professional garden designer and describes himself as mad about heucheras. I’m sure he also has other favourite plants so it would be good to find out what they are.

I invited John to share his love of plants and gardening with us, and to tell us a little of how he created his beautiful garden. I’m really delighted to welcome him as a guest to the My Garden School blog

How did you get into gardening in the first place John and how long have you been hooked?I started at school when they got a veg garden. It was better than the alternative… cross-country running.Raised Veg Beds @ HCPFS 1

I know you design gardens for a living John, what would you say are your specialty aspects of garden design and construction?

I just love working with natural stone. It’s tactile and versatile, and always looks great. I am told I have my own style. I don’t follow trends in the garden design world, but inevitably, my style of gardening comes into fashion at some point. I believe that after watching Chelsea on the telly in May 2012, it would seem I am in vogue right now.

Fullscreen capture 11012013 075929.bmp

Tell us a little about your garden at Rewela Cottage. How did you go about planning the garden, or has it evolved.

Fullscreen capture 11012013 081027We moved in December 1997 and started in January 1998. The garden started as a paddock, virtually flat. As soon as I saw it I knew exactly what I was going to do. It is about three quarters of an acre, so had to be tackled in bite-sized chunks at weekends and evenings. The pond was a priority as the fish were still in the pond at the house we just moved from. That had to be finished first, so we could give them a home. The basic levels and shapes were done first, and then the hard landscape, followed by the planting. The first one third of the garden consists mainly of trees and shrubs, all of which offer more than one season of interest. The majority of the garden is ‘low maintenance’ using shreddings and bark to suppress weeds. The major time consumption comes from the vegetable garden, and propagating and growing plants in pots for sale. Although I grow my own vegetables and fruit, but we are not self-sufficient.

Many of the trees and shrubs have architectural foliage; there are many different greens, and variegations and a great variety of shapes and sizes. There are no straight lines in the garden and there is no lawn. There are no annuals and very few perennials, colour is provided by the trees and shrubs; their leaves, bark, flowers and berries.

Are you a plant collector or do you just grow plants that you like?  

I have a large collection of Heucheras, Heucherellas & Tiarellas; I think at the last count there were about 120 varieties. I also have about 80 varieties of Penstemon, and about 40 varieties of Hosta. I grow these to sell on the National Garden Scheme open days, but I also have a good selection in the garden.


If I you had to choose your three “Desert Island Plants” what would they be?

I would have to be practical and choose at lease one that would also feed me, therefore my first choice would have to be a banana. However, if you want me to choose my favorite plants in my garden, then one would be Syringa emodi ‘Variegata’, another would be Dryopteris erythrosora and finally Gunnera manicata.

Pools and exoticsHow challenging is the climate in your part of Yorkshire. The garden looks quite exotic; do you protect some of the plants in winter?

The winters up here can be quite hard. To be on the safe side I protect the olives and dicksonia by putting them in the polytunnel and wrapping with bubblewrap. The phormiums will usually survive, but of late have not faired well, so these are potted and placed in the polytunnel too.

How long have you been opening the garden through The National Garden Scheme, and what do you enjoy about it?

2013 will be my 5th year with the NGS; I love showing off my garden. I try to add something new every year, so that the regulars, and there are many, get to see something new. It also offers a day out, not just for the visitors, but for the village volunteers who all want to do there little bit. It brings us all together.

What are your other guilty pleasures apart from gardening?

I garden for a living, I garden for a hobby, and my guilty pleasure, I’m afraid … is still gardening. I work as a volunteer for the NGS, organizing elements of the Yorkshire Booklet, from the advertising to the distribution. It certainly keeps me busy!

Pictures of the garden can be seen by googling – Rewela Cottage. This will take you to the NGS website. Or Click here.

The garden is open on 5th May & 21st July 2013, both days are Sundays.  See the Yellow Book for more details.

Rewela Cottage

Andy McIndoe

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