Geoff Stebbings will be known to regular visitors to Springmount Garden Centre in Ballycanew as their resident expert speaker on everything from pruning to planting, preparing your garden for winter and, well, everything really!
A professional gardener, author, writer, broadcaster, and speaker, he’s been gardening since he was seven and there’s very little he doesn’t know. Indeed, Elaine Warren, owner of Springmount Garden Centre, says Geoff is “one of the most informed people in his area in the UK or Ireland – he has a way of communicating that makes gardening sound easy. He’s built up a gathering of new and experienced gardeners at the talks”, she says.
He is so knowledgeable and reputable that Springmount Garden Centre has teamed up with the Ashdown Park Hotel to offer a special package whereby hotel guests can now attend Geoff’s seasonal workshops. The next one, on 6 November, will cover pruning a wide variety of plants, preparing your garden for winter, and what to plant for some winter colour.
Born in the UK, Geoff moved to North Wexford in 2013. A frequent visitor to Ireland before that, he’s been a gardener since childhood and a biker since the age of 17. Hence, the catchy title of his blog: The Biking Gardener.
“I was editor of a gardening magazine for seven years and we came up with the idea of being a biking gardener – that people would email in their queries and I would bike out to their gardens to solve their gardening problems.” Still a biker at heart, he has two bikes on the go (when he has time), a Suzuki GSXR1000 and a KTM Super Moto.
Today, he looks after a private garden, does gardening talks, and writes for magazines such as Garden Answers, Garden News, Landscape. You’ll also spot his work in the Sunday Times Ireland edition, where he has a gardening column. Oh, and he has several books to his name, including Growing Your Own Fruit and Veg for Dummies, Gorgeous Garden Boosters, and Spring Bulbs – he’s a fan of irises and bulbs!
So, how does he find North Wexford from a gardening perspective? “What’s interesting about this area is that the continental climate means we get drier summers and cold winters. There’s a wide variety of soils and, because of the topography, there’s a huge variation in the microclimate. So, you can grow a wide variety of plants, including all the Irish garden plants, Japanese acers, rhododendrons; as well as plants that need more heat in summer such as fruit, apples, plums, strawberries.”
Now, this biker, who trained at the Royal Botanic Gardens in Kew, is working on his own garden and having to decide what to include and what to exclude. In an ideal world, his dream garden would include a stream, a south-facing slope, fruit, veg – “there are very few plants that I wouldn’t want to grow and there’s nothing better than growing your own food”.
TALK TO GEOFF!
The next step for Geoff, who also worked as head gardener at Myddelton House in Enfield, north London (once home to EA Bowles, one of Britain’s most famous amateur gardeners and expert botanists) is to set up a garden advisory service. That way he could take the time to deal fully with people’s queries about their gardens, taking into account the specific context of their garden – a general answer just doesn’t cut it as each garden has different elements!
We’ll leave the last word to Elaine Warren, who says of the man whose expert advice helped Springmount Garden Centre win three gold medals at Bloom: “He has the knowledge!”
Interview & photos: Deirdre O’Flynn