“Heathcliff of the Hedgerows”

Another handsome man who gardens. That turns my crank on so many levels!

I attended the Toronto Botanical Gardens lecture last night to hear (and gaze upon) Matthew Wilson. He has been referred to as the “Heathcliff of the Hedgerows” by the British press (aren’t they clever at making up names, maybe they could come up with one for me).

When I was waiting for the lecture to begin, I was browsing in the library. Two ladies were talking about the turnout for that evening. One of them said to her friend, that everyone had to come out and have a look to see if he was as handsome as advertised.

Dear Readers, he is!

Now, I must apologize for the poor quality of this photo. Taken on my phone, hordes of ladies surrounding him, and dimmed lights in the room. When I started my blog, I made it a policy to only use my own photos (obviously, no matter how bad they may be). If you really want to see how handsome he is, you can google him.

Matthew (see, we are on first name terms, lol) has worked for the RHS (Royal Horticultural Society, for those not in the know) for ten years, and then became  Head of Creative Development. However, he just left the RHS and is now working for a private landscaping firm. Private gardenings gain versus public gardenings loss!

The talk was titled “New Gardening: How to Garden in a Changing Climate” and discussed water efficiency, plant choices, carbon reduction and gardens in their relations to local wildlife. Now my garden already has a relationship to local wildlife, the squirrel mafia, already uses it as their neighbourhood bar and grill. They hang around all day, doing nothing but eating(mostly crocus) and drinking. I wasn’t sure how Matthew was going to deepen our relationship any further, but I was willing to have a listen.

We are so blessed in Canada, to have an abundant supply of fresh water, that sometimes we take it for granted. However, we should be doing all we can to protect it and not waste it. Just by having a gravel driveway or paths, instead of paved, you are doing something good for the earth. You will allow water to penetrate the soil, instead of running off and into the storm drains.

Improve the quality of your soil (every gardener knows that). What I did not know, is if you have clay soil, do  not add manure, that makes it richer and heavier. You want to lighten clay soil, so add grit and compost.

But the most inspiring remark came near the end of the program. You as a gardener cannot decide who is going to live or die in your garden.  If you use anything to destroy the pests, an equal number of good bugs will die as well,(although if you are squashing things by hand, I guess you are.) You cannot play God!

Have a look at his book RHS New Gardening: How to Garden in a Changing Climate, I think that you will enjoy it.



42 Responses so far »

  1. 1

    Wonderful post Deborah! I have the same policy about photographs on my blog. The information on ammending clay is very useful for me. 🙂

    • 2

      Me too, Rebecca. I always thought that adding manure was the way to go. Now I have to find some grit.
      Always a bit of a problem using only my own photographs. Sometimes I want to write about something, and no photo. I think that readers prefer at least one photo!

  2. 3

    Edith Hope said,

    Dear D, Unlike you, I have never seen MW in the flesh so as yet do not know what I am missing. Has he now replaced MD in your affections? I should like to think so.

    The lecture sounds to have been very good and informative and I am glad that you found it of interest. On the subject of clay, may I add that the VERY BEST conditioner is bonfire ash and/or ash from the fire. This was told to me years ago by PS and SK, the Sissinghurst girls, and does, I can assure you, really work.

    Thank you for your comment on my recent posting. In my reply there I have tried to outline how I trained my hornbeams. I do hope that you are able to make sense of it. If not, then get back to me.

    • 4

      Oh Edith, I am so shallow and flighty. Another pretty face and I am switching allegiances. It was very informative. But, I really like your tip on adding wood ash. I have a lot of it, (have a fire every time we are there) and have never been sure what to do with it. I will be adding it to all my gardens, hoping to lighten the clay.
      And thank you for the info on the hornbeams. I have e-mailed you.

  3. 5

    Joanne said,

    Hi sounds like an interesting talk but I have to confess that I hadn’t heard of him although i can’t get excited about celebrities even in the gardening World and much prefer the celebrity plants than people.
    Perhaps next time I read something in a garden magazine and it includes him I will take note of what he has to say.

    • 6

      Joanne, he has the smarts to back up his celebrity. He was the Curator of Hyde Hall, then Curator of Harlow Carr. That is two of the four RHS gardens. Then the RHS made him the Head of Gardens, Creative Developement. A very important position.

  4. 7

    Heathcliff of the hedgerows! I love it. I can just imagine him (yes, I did google. yes, he is easy on the eyes) roving around the moors at night roaring “kathy! Kathy!” I don’t know, maybe he’s more of a Mr. Rochester?? Glad you got to hear him in person – sounds like an interesting topic. I’ve been pondering a gravel driveway to replace my asphalt one….and I’m all about native plants these days. I might have to check this book out!

    • 8

      Kelly, it was an interesting topic. I never thought about a lot of things till he mentioned them. For example, water runoff, between the huge number of roads, car parks,patios and roofs, a lot of water is not absorbed into the soil, but in the storm systems. By replacing your interlocking and concrete paths with gravel, that water would instead be absorbed into the ground.

  5. 9

    patientgardener said,

    Hi – I listened to this talk by Matthew almost a year ago here in the UK in Upton. He was very good.

  6. 11

    miss m said,

    Well, I googled him too ‘coz your photo does not do him justice ! (He is a looker !) 😀

    How fitting you talk about this. I’m working on a post about eco pavers. The Brits are really miles ahead of us, I find, in eco gardening. Almost every UK show I watch tackles the issue in some form (green roofs, peat bogs, attracting wildlife, sustainable urban drainage systems, etc.). I’m green myself (and proud of it !) so talks like these just ‘concrete’ (pardon the pun!) my convictions even more.

    I hope you got to shake his handsome hand. 😉

  7. 13

    Yes, I confess I googled him too. *sigh*. 😉

    It is nice to hear good speakers. I always learn some thing new and am inspired by their vision. The hort society here in Edmonton brings in mostly western Canadian speakers. My recent favourite was Rick Los of the Butchart Gardens. Hey, he was not bad looking either – must be the fresh garden air! lol

    • 14

      Barry said,

      Hi Deborah, Sorry I missed you at the TBG.. there were a number of Toronto area bloggers who had a chance to meet face to face, you may have met them also.

      Enjoyed Matthew Wilson, and I am looking forward to his talk to the Ont. Rock Garden & Hardy Plant Soc. on Sunday. Interesting to note that MW was not altogether complimentary about MD ( that warmed him to me immediately).

    • 16

      Yay, for fresh garden air!, It is always interesting going to hear garden speakers, always something new to learn.

  8. 17

    I’m trying hard to resist ‘googling’ this Man 😀
    I do like his thoughts on insecticides and avoid them in my garden, so that makes him quite attractive enough already!

  9. 19

    fairegarden said,

    Hi Deborah, I envy your accessability to this gardening icon! His ideas about the the use of pesticides is spot on as well. We stopped using all of them with each passing year until we are now totally free of poisons, man made ones anyway, outdoors. I am still planting foxgloves where the voles rule, along with the daffodils. Cans of soapy water are the weapon of choice for the Japanese beetles too. And if I may butt in to the above comment about wood ash, be aware that it is very alkaline. Don’t spread it where azaleas, or heaths, (HA), or other acid lovers would be growing. 🙂

    • 20

      Frances, one of the great things about living in a big city, Lynden Miller and Tony Avent are coming in the next couple of months. Good to know about the wood ash, my soil is already alkaline, so I do not have very many acidic lovers anyway.

  10. 21

    Deborah — I was there, too! In the front row, no less. Oh, why didn’t we get in touch beforehand? I concur: he was very much worth listening to. And if his Heathcliffullness gets the word out, well that’s a bonus.

  11. 23

    tina said,

    When I hear ‘Heathcliff’ I somehow don’t picture handsome but I’ll take your word for his good looks. I picture dark and brooding and a bit crazy. I love that movie and book but that’s what I get of Heathcliff. Sorry:) I did not know adding manure to clay would make it heavier. Very interesting. I will endeavor to use only compost.

    • 24

      Tina, the English press gave him that title, maybe they know something that I don’t, lol.
      I didn’t know about the manure either, I should have realized how heavy it was, cleaned out enough horse stalls when I was a teenager.

  12. 25

    skeeter said,

    How wonderful it must have been to see this handsome man in person. Did you really hear what he had to say or were you caught up in the glow? Hee hee…

    I must agree with the shop owner about not getting roses for Valentines Day. If the quality is not good, then pass on them. The bouquets were beautiful and I think any woman would be happy with them instead of the typical Roses. I tell my hubby to never get me rose’s on V-Day as they are so overrated…

    • 26

      A bit of both Skeeter, lol.
      As to the roses, the quality just was not there, why even sell them. We stand behind our flowers, if they do not last a reasonable amount of time, we replace them. We would have been replacing a lot that year! I am glad that you liked the other bouquets.
      And thank you for visiting my blog and leaving a comment, I hope to see you back again soon.

  13. 27

    Sorry I’m so late to read this post. It was a very long work week, and blotanical was down till today. So now I’m off for a couple days, and blogging life is back to normal!

    Matthew may be good looking, but as I have three exceedingly handsome sons, I am not over impressed. It sounds like a great lecture. As I spent the day spreading manure around my plants, I should have heard him (or read your post) first! Actually I just scratched the manure into the surface of my soil, to serve as a natural fertilizer. I also use compost and wood ashes and lots of fish emulsion, which may be why cats hang around our yard.

    • 28

      Deborah, it was a great lecture, and a little bit of eye candy just makes it even more enjoyable. You are lucky to have so many handsome men around to give you a hand in your garden, I am envious! I was shocked about the manure, I do garden on clay now. My first garden was on sand so the manure was great then.

  14. 29

    Meredith said,

    I feel a bit late to the party. Forgive me, Deborah, for missing this wonderful post when it came up. (When is Blotanical going to work for me again?? I am in the whiny stage of withdrawal, esp. after hearing it’s working for some folks.)

    I’d never heard of this ‘Heathcliff of the Hedgerows,” but after a quick Google, I can see where he comes by his melodramatic moniker. 😉 He’s attractive, yes — but even better, he apparently has a brain and uses it to improve people’s gardens with ecologically sound techniques. I had never thought about using gravel in place of pavement, although now that you explain it makes perfect sense!

    And I can always use pointers on clay, including Edith’s helpful note. I have two huge bags of wood ash donated by my father “for the garden,” and I hadn’t yet got up the nerve to ask him what he meant me to do with it, merely saying thanks. It’s clear that it was meant to improve our clay. Such a sweet gesture! I think I’ll write him a thank you note. 🙂

    • 30

      Nice to get both beauty and brains, isn’t it Meredith! Even if you just get one or two ideas from him, well worth the time spent at the lecture. Very nice of your father to give you the ash. At our last house (also an old Victorian), I would constantly find lumps of charcoal in the garden. I thought the previous home owners were being lazy at getting rid of their wood ashes, now I know they were doing a good thing!

  15. 31

    Wendy said,

    What a kick he’ll get if/when he reads this post!! ha ha!

    I like that you’ve taken a photo with your phone. It’s so much more exciting that just seeing a photo. Now, off to google this handsome man!

  16. 33

    Joy said,

    Deborah .. I have stopped using pesticides for a few years now and have to resort to squishing those darn lily beetles (UGH ! I try to pretend I am one of the “Kids in the Hall” during those times .. “squish squish” ! haha)
    That must have been a great lecture to hear in person .. again with the envy from me ? LOL
    Don’t stress over the photos girl .. it will come ..
    Joy : )

    • 34

      Joy, I am not sorry to tell you, I Have No Lily Beetle In Owen Sound!!!!!!
      I did in Kingston, they drove me crazy, I could have lived without the lilys, but they were on my beloved frits as well!

  17. 35

    Tatyana said,

    It’s interesting about a gravel paths vs. paved ones. I didn’think about it before.

  18. 37

    Anna said,

    Glad to hear that he is just as delectable in real life as on the screen Deborah. He has a new book and tv series coming out very soon over here 🙂

  19. 39

    My attention span is sometimes like that of a flea, Deborah. I started reading your post on Matthew Wilson, went off to search for the book I have by him (it was under the bed, having been nighttime reading), and never left a comment. I like thinking gardeners, and Wilson is decidedly one; I think he probably makes some people uncomfortable when he asks whether they really need all that lawn, but I’m so on board with him on that. I have his book ‘New Gardening’ and refer to it regularly (hence it being bed-reading material).
    You’re so right about our freshwater supplies and that we shouldn’t squander them. I worry about water deprived parts of our southerly neighbour, where they build golf courses in deserts and then wonder why they have no water. I know they have their eyes on our resources….

  20. 41

    Sue in Milan said,

    Love that last quote about not playing God. perhaps we should all have it tacked up in our toolsheds.

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