I fell in love with plants in childhood – the first plant I bought was Chamaecereus something or other (it’s now classed as an Echinopsis). When it eventually flowered, I was amazed at its beauty, and began collecting all sorts of plants, wheedled from school friends, local nurseries, even surreptitious adrenalin-rush cuttings from Kew. But at Kew, I also painted some of the plants I most admired.
Rather than an artist, I became a botanist. I couldn’t leave my collection, so read botany at nearby Reading University, and where botanical drawing was an important part of the course. After that, I went up to Edinburgh to do a PhD, on the genus Muscari. In between looking at chromosomes, I managed a marvellously educative collecting trip to Greece, where I found out a bit about life, but not much about grape hyacinths. Still painting with enthusiasm, I nearly stopped botany in order to go to Art College, but courage failed me.
Classical taxonomy being in decline, I went to Liverpool University to look at yet more chromosomes. That was something of a disaster, and I managed to get a job back in my beloved Edinburgh. My new post was as a taxonomist studying vegetable varieties. This was not especially interesting, and gardening and garden writing somehow took over. I began restoring an urban Georgian garden (and its house), wrote a book on Georgian Gardens, sold the house, dumped the job, and bought a lovely but ruinous 17th century village house on the shores of the Firth of Forth at Belhaven.This gave rise to a series of new books, led to various newspaper columns, magazine articles, and garden designs for other gardens. There’s more info at http://www.david-stuart.co.uk.
I now currently garden in a tiny 18th century patch in a Borders village; the garden still has paths, seat, sundial and urns from the 1790′s. We’ve added pools, and lots of new plants and plantings, and a new, if minute, walled kitchen garden. I now scarcely have time to write about gardens and gardening, though manage a rather intermittent blog.
The reduction in actual gardening and writing has, marvellously, allowed me to return to my earliest love – painting and, more recently, printmaking,
I also have the opportunity to mooch about in a pretty little garden in London, and something very nice in Lincolnshire – see my blog for pictures.