The Land Gardeners are champions of healthy plants, healthy soil and biodiverse, living gardens and farmland.
Otherwise known as Henrietta Courtauld and Bridget Elworthy, two friends and colleagues who are passionate about soil health and the revival of compost in their gardening and design work.
Henrietta and Bridget were part of our Daylesford Discusses: The English Garden panel earlier in May 2021 (the full recording is now available to watch on our youtube channel).
We caught up with them for some follow-up questions to understand their mission and motivation.
How did you meet?
We met when our children were at nursery school together.
What inspired your love of gardens, soil and cut flowers?
We both spent hours and hours in the garden as children, playing with flowers and soil.
What does a typical day look like for you both?
There is never a typical day at The Land Gardeners!
We may spend a day gardening together, visiting a design client or designing in our little garden studio in London. Increasingly we are spending days visiting farms and educating farmers about our Climate Compost. We regularly visit our two climate compost hubs up in Althorp, Northamptonshire and down in Cornwall where our compost teams are based.
Can you tell us more about your approach to gardening?
Soil health is our starting point for all our gardening. We are passionate about it. If you get the soil humming with microbiology then the rest of life floods in – the biodiversity, the bees, insects, animals.
Our own climate compost is aerobic, microbially rich compost which is teeming with life. It is that life which makes it special – and it is that life which feeds the microbes in the soil allowing them to feed the plants. We can turn raw organic matter into climate compost in 6-8 weeks.
What are your favourite cut flowers to grow?
Tulips – especially stripes, roses – both shrub and hybrid teas, peonies, dahlias, sweet rocket.
What can growers at home do to boost soil health in their gardens?
Try not to have bare soil – planting green manures whenever you have gaps helps to feed the microbes in the soil and the microbes in turn will feed your plants. Soil and plants have a special partnership – the plants photosynthesise, bringing sugars down into their roots and then releasing them to feed the microbes in the soil.
The microbes in turn take the minerals from the soil and release them to the plant roots, feeding the plants. Nature is so clever – and it’s why it is so important to keep plants growing in your soils and not see bare soil.
What advice do you have for anyone wanting to grow cut flowers at home in a responsible way?
You can grow dedicated rows of cut flowers – try mixing them amongst your vegetables and herbs as this is so good for biodiversity. Remember not to be scared of picking from your borders!
And we love our orchard as a source of cut flowers. We can pick from the orchard all year long from bulbs like narcissi, fritillaries and camassias in the spring; cow parsley and blossom one early summer; rambling roses in the height of summer; wild rose hips in the autumn and then even snowdrops and aconites in the depths of winter.