Q & A with Kendra Wilson, author of ‘The Problem With My Garden’

By Shelley Pierce | June 18, 2017
by Shelley Pierce
June 18, 2017

Kendra Wilson trained as a gardener at Cottesbrooke Hall in Northamptonshire, before joining Gardenista when it launched five years ago. Besides The Problem with My Garden, she has co-written The Book of the Dog for Laurence King, as well as The Book of the Bird. Before moving to the country, she lived in central London and was a designer and picture editor, starting at Vogue and ending at the Observer.

In her latest book, The Problem with My Garden, she offers savvy solutions, insightful advice and inspiration for dealing with specific gardening problems. Read on to learn more about this Laurence King Publishing book and enter to win one of 3 copies!


1. What inspired you to write this book?

Since training as a gardener at a manor house in the East of England, I have been seen as an ‘expert’ by friends and neighbors. I am not an expert but I’m happy to share ideas. People show me around their gardens in despair, saying ‘What about this – and this?’. All of our gardens are different but many of the dilemmas are the same, such as ‘My garden is overlooked’ or ‘My garden is an awkward shape’. There is a pool of knowledge from great gardeners and garden writers, and I’ve tried to pass on some of those ideas.


2. At the beginning of your book you state that “fear of gardening is quite common, strange though it might sound.” How does your book help us to allay that fear?

The idea was to show a successful picture next to each dilemma, to help readers see that nothing is hopeless. A great garden is sometimes defined by a characteristic that has been embraced, instead of being despaired over. My friend’s excessively rocky garden is a garden with one main idea: rock. Yet it is tranquil, shaded in places and has pockets of deep rich earth which have been taken full advantage of.

When a problem is seen as insurmountable, it can stop people from doing anything, especially when added to worries about keeping plants alive. I’ve avoided being too technical and have emphasised an approach which is not time-consuming, or complicated. This is the kind of gardening that appeals to me.

 

3. Your book features 57 gardening dilemmas and solutions for those dilemmas. How did you determine which dilemmas to include? Were they based on personal experience or did you survey a lot of gardeners to find the most common dilemmas? Is a follow-up book in the works with more gardening dilemmas?

There are issues which come up again and again, like ‘My yard is too long and narrow’. I tend to write for people who are not horticultural experts but are design-aware (like me) and I see gardens on these terms. For a while I was gardening for a book publisher whose long, narrow garden was the length of a city block. It was difficult to rationalize the space. When I saw designer Chris Moss’s London garden, which is compartmentalized in a clever way, it stuck in my mind and was the first ‘problem’ to go into the book.

New garden owners panic sometimes panic about things they’ve heard; received wisdom can be quite detrimental. Wisteria, for instance, has a reputation for being difficult. A brief explanation that I received while training at Cottesbrooke Hall has always stuck; in its logic, it is not difficult at all. The same goes for roses, which I also talk about. More is to be gained from doing, than reading, and the friendly tone of my book will hopefully get people to open the back door, secateurs in hand.

 

4. What is one of the most interesting or unusual gardening dilemmas you have ever encountered?

There is a spread in the book that says: ‘I have high walls and railings’. I wanted to put it in because the house, on a busy arterial road through East London, has the most incongruous front garden, which separates the whole property from its surroundings in such an imaginative way. It’s filled with jungly creepers and roses, climbing not only up the railings but over the facade of the four-story house. The planting is done with a lot of gusto, punctuated by brilliantly arcane statuary.

5. What gardening dilemma are you facing at the moment in your garden?

My own garden has at least a dozen dilemmas, mainly to do with living in a cottage. The neighbors are very close but once you walk down toward the field that we back on to (where lambs are hopping about right now), then it is completely private. Though rather far from the house. Since writing the book I am changing my garden completely, after 12 years of indecision. I now have the confidence, and trust my ideas.

WIN ONE OF THREE COPIES OF ‘The Problem with My Garden‘!

To enter, simply leave a comment on this blog post by midnight on Sunday, June 25, 2017 (be sure to provide a valid e-mail address) in answer to the following question:

What is the problem with your garden?

Be sure to include a valid e-mail address. The winner will be drawn at random from all qualified entrants, and notified via e-mail. (See rules for more information.)

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