Noel Kingsbury is one of the world’s leading garden writers, the author of over twenty books and columnist for Gardens Illustrated, amongst other publications. Best known for his promotion of naturalistic planting design, he has notably collaborated with leading garden designer Piet Oudolf.
At NiddFest this year, Noel will be giving a talk about nature-inspired planting. Afterwards, in a separate event, he will lead us on a walk through Nidderdale’s landscape, giving us a ‘rabbit’s eye view’ of plants.
Noel’s talk – ‘Wild about the garden’ – Sunday 7 August, 9.30-10.30am, Pateley Bridge Memorial Hall. Tickets £8 adult, £5 child, available on the door or HERE.
Here is Noel’s Q and A:
1. What is your earliest memory of the natural world?
Not my earliest but most significant, a walk with my father in some woods near where we lived in Sussex, spring: bluebells, but there was the odd white and pink one, and early purple orchids. I remember it as a kind of wildflower-filled wonderland. It must have been the first time I was really away of the beauty and diversity of wildflower communities.
2. Did you always want to be a writer?
No, had never occurred to me until I had done a couple of articles for gardening magazines, but my mum had been a very successful writer of children’s books, so I had had her example.
3. Who were the authors or who inspired you to start writing?
Doing what I do – Christopher Lloyd was one of the earliest garden writers I came across: eloquent, funny, informative. Since then, Henk Gerritsen, for his dry sense of humour.
4. Do you have a favourite place or landscape?
Not really a single place. I love mountains, proper mountains like the Alps, with forest up the sides as far as it can survive, and the only sound that of a river far below.
5. How do you feel about the state of the natural world today?
It is pretty depressing to be honest, but on the other hand conservation has made huge strides in the developed world, it shows what can be done, when the rest of the world overcomes poverty.
6. Do you have a motto?
7. What are you working on at the moment?
I’m doing online teaching materials for gardening courses, I love explaining things, breaking down complex subjects and presenting information, making people think and ask questions. More fun to do a live workshop but online you can reach people so far away; I’ve had a student in Brasilia recently, doing really interesting pioneering work with native plants and it was wonderful to be able to help along at such a crucial stage.
8. What are your three ‘desert island’ reads and why
Emma Marris’s Rambunctious Garden, for its gutsy realistic look at nature today and how we are recreating it, and how it always comes back, but not in ways we expect it. Heinz Ellenberg’s vast tome, The Vegetation of Central Europe, which actually is pretty relevant for here too, such wonderful inventive, elegant diagrams; it does so much to help the reader really understand what is going on. And I would like to tackle Alexander von Humboldt’s Cosmos, in English translation, sad to say; he was an amazing character, as important as Darwin, a recent book on him is at last making us aware here of how important he has been for our understanding of the natural world.