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Geoff Hamilton

Geoff HamiltonA gardening legend
out of print

Geoff Hamilton’s life is celebrated, with an exciting new publication dedicated to this gardening legend.

August 2006 sees the 10th anniversary of the untimely death of Britain’s best loved gardener Geoff Hamilton. To celebrate this anniversary, Mortons Media Group Ltd, publishers of the popular Kitchen Garden magazine are launching a fantastic new publication, Geoff Hamilton, A Gardening Legend.

On sale from the 4th August 2006, this comprehensive 132-page book is written by two of the people who knew him best, son Nick and daughter-in-law Sue Hamilton. Tracing Geoff’s life from his birth in Stepney, East London on 15th August 1936, Nick and Sue provide hitherto, unpublished anecdotes and facts about this great man. Giving everyone the chance to follow Geoff’s early years in horticulture through to his work as a talented writer and magazine editor and of course during his career as Britain’s best-loved TV gardener.

This publication allows the reader to learn what influenced Geoff in becoming such a passionate campaigner for the organic gardening movement and for the preservation of our natural heritage. What were his favourite flowers, his secrets of success with fruit and vegetables and what inspired him when designing his own plot are just some of the fascinating information which can be found in this book.

Nick and Sue take the reader on a magical tour of the many small gardens Geoff built at Barnsdale with many superb ideas for our own gardens.

Geoff Hamilton’s enormous popularity has never faltered – even now he regularly tops popularity polls in national gardening magazines and thousands of visitors travel each year to his beloved garden, Barnsdale in Rutland, the TV garden that every week played host to BBC Gardener’s World. With so many fans loving him above all else for his  hands-on and down-to-earth approach to gardening; using original photography, Nick and Sue recreate many of his favourite and most successful projects, step-by-step, so that a new generation of gardeners can adapt them for their own plots.

This beautiful new work is more than a tribute to a great man, this is a gardener’s must have read.

Out of print - This title will appear on our digital App soon - see more details >>

Format: Glossy A4 perfect bound Bookazine
Pages: 132
Colour: Full Colour & B/W images



4 Introduction

5 Geoff Hamilton - the making of a super-gardner

27 Geoff's working life - the rocky road to stardom

56 The gardens of Barnsdale

104 Geoff's dream comes to life - Nick and Sue open the gates

124 Practical projects - Ideas for your garden

129 Barnsdale Gardens guide


Geoff's working life

...the rocky road to Stardom

Once his course at Writtle Agricultural College had finished, dad stayed on for a while working as a technician before setting out on his own, as getting married had spurred him on to greater things and he felt that landscape gardening was his calling.

Living in Wormley, he was only a short distance from the affluent areas of north London and it was here that he felt he would be able to generate most work. This might sound like a match made in heaven but he couldn’t just get in there do the job and get out, he had to do the best job that he possibly could and this was typified on many occasions when he would say to any of us boys: “If a job’s worth doing then it’s worth doing well”.

Mind you, his first design and landscape job was not the most auspicious or imaginative piece of work, but things improved at a great rate as he learned valuable lessons ‘on the job’. This philosophy was very admirable and one that you would encourage your children to follow, as he did with us, but only if your quote has allowed for this extra time spent ensuring that the finished product is of the highest standard. He was having to compete with landscapers who were dashing in, doing a poor job, grabbing the money and disappearing but who set a low price level that many had to quote to in order to get work, especially when starting out.

His low income was further compounded by the reluctance of clients to part with their money. It seemed that the more money a client had, the harder it was for dad to prise it out of their palms, even when he presented them with a top quality garden.

Life was hard at home with three growing boys and little money, so he teamed up with another landscaper, Martin Frost, with whom he built gardens at the Chelsea Flower Show. The credentials that my father now had were more than most landscapers could hope for in a lifetime of work, but this still did not equate to a rise in income or prompt payment for work done.

Reluctantly, he left landscaping saying that, because of the constant knocking on people’s doors trying to encourage them to pay up, he had begun feeling more like a debt collector than a landscaper.

He went to work for his father, selling materials to the engineering industry, and it was while driving to a factory that he stumbled across a derelict garden centre on the outskirts of Kettering in Northamptonshire. He could immediately see the potential in this site: it was on the edge of a new estate and, with his expertise as a horticulturalist, a business there could not fail. He came back, persuaded my mother that this was a brilliant idea and that it was going to solve all our money worries and then went out and bought it (well, the bank bought it on his behalf).

The garden centre
The site consisted of a near-derelict shop and a rickety old greenhouse and that was about it, so he started to rebuild it on his own, as there were no funds to employ tradesmen to help. I remember him coming home late one evening after laying many square yards of paving and noticed his hands; he had worked them smooth so he no longer had any fingerprints. It was suggested that he could moonlight as a burglar, because he would leave no trace of who it was but, as usual, he had already thought of that, because he came straight back with the point that the police would then look for a man with smooth hands, namely him.

He worked all hours, every day to get the garden centre up and running with a nicely fitted-out shop, sales beds for plants, a reconstructed greenhouse for houseplants, display pond, and plenty of hardstanding areas for composts as well as paved pathways. It was a real credit to his hard work.

The day before the grand opening two rectangular signs went up, one either side of the entrance, each having a yellow tulip outline on a green square at one end, with ‘The Hamilton Garden Centre’ covering the rest. It was a very proud moment for everyone and things started promisingly. He grew a lot of the plants he sold himself and was enjoying life, especially as his customers now gave their money to him before they left. Things were going so well that he was thinking about expanding, growing more plants himself so that he could cut down even more on the number of plants he bought in and even supplying local landscapers with their requirements.

He had found a house for sale about four miles away, in a small village called Weekly, that had some land as well as a couple of polythene tunnels already erected, since it had been used as a small market garden. This seemed to be the perfect answer to his expansion plans and, after another very productive meeting with his bank manager, he bought it. Dad had, by this time, also started to write the odd freelance article for Garden News, a weekly gardening newspaper.

On reading a copy of the paper he had one of his grand thoughts again, thinking ‘I can do that’, so he bought a cheap second-hand typewriter and set about writing two articles in his best Queen’s English. The words seemed to rattle through the typewriter with ease and it was not long before he had two perfect articles to send off. The Garden News technical editor, Geoff Amos, liked what dad had written and asked him to write some more… and there began the journalistic career of one Geoff Hamilton. We all have Geoff Amos to thank for dad’s break into the media, as it was he who saw the potential in a raw young writer with an easy-to-read style and who would undoubtedly move on to much greater things. Dad was very lucky in his life to stumble across the right people at the right time, and Geoff Amos was certainly a man of great foresight.