About The Frustrated Gardener

The Frustrated Gardener, tending his roses!
Watering a standard rose at 105 Eggbuckland Road, Plymouth circa 1976

Plants have always been my passion. It’s alleged that Mesembryanthemum was the first word I spoke as a baby, although I think that’s more myth than reality. Nevertheless, my childhood was defined by plants and growing, experimenting with seeds and cuttings in my parents’ garden. I recall Rosa ‘Albertine’ and R. ‘Fragrant Cloud’, loganberries, Prunus ceracifera ‘Nigra’, African marigolds and the hedges of privet and escallonia as if I last saw them yesterday. In a small lean-to greenhouse, which smelt wonderfully of cedar, my father grew tomatoes.

My grandparents were probably my greatest inspiration. My paternal grandfather was a head gardener on a grand country estate and taught me how to force rhubarb, thin bunches of grapes, pollinate glasshouse peaches and grow asparagus. How many people have these skills to share nowadays?

I have many happy memories of my grandparents' cottage at Liscombe Park
I have many happy memories of my grandparents’ cottage at Liscombe Park

On my mother’s side, my Grandma Pope was very modern in the 1970’s and 80’s, filling her Cornish garden with heathers, conifers, eucalypts and phormiums in informal island beds. The photograph below was taken some years after she passed away, when the garden was no longer maintained to her immaculate standards.

Lansing, St Agnes, circa 2003
My Cornish grandma was a great advocate of heathers, conifers and hydrangeas

By the age of fourteen I had acquired a greenhouse, and took to filling the borders in my parents’ garden with a myriad of colourful annuals every summer. Dahlias, petunias, marigolds and nasturtiums were favourites along with mesembryanthemum, naturally. Those were the days. University followed, reading Landscape Management at Reading University.  here I specialised in the new ecological style of planting design, involving perennials which co-exist in naturalistic groups. From there I commenced a very short career as a Landscape Architect. Finding the world of commercial landscaping involved the smallest palette of relatively dull plants I quickly became a disillusioned. A new career in retail ensued, and I have never looked back.

At The American Garden, Hythe, Kent, May 2008
Being photobombed by rhododendrons at The American Garden, Hythe, Kent

I am lucky enough to garden two plots, one by the seaside in Broadstairs, Kent and another in Highgate, London. Our coastal garden was designed in partnership with Declan Buckley, a very talented landscape designer. In a space about 20x30ft we cram in as many tropical, or tropical looking plants as possible. You can find out a lot more by looking at Our Coastal Garden and the associated plant list. The London plot is very much a work in progress, but getting there slowly. 2014 has seen the creation of a raised bed in which we are growing vegetables for the first time.

Realising I was forgetting much that I had learnt about gardening and needing a hobby that would distract me from work, I took up writing this blog in June 2012. It has been everything I hoped it would be, connecting me once again to my great passion in life and to like-minded bloggers.  I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoy writing it.

Dan Cooper, The Frustrated Gardener, September 2014