Open Book author interviews,
Matthew Biggs gardening interview, professional gardener with regular appearances on Gardeners' Question Time
Matthew Biggs gardening interview, professional gardener with regular appearances on Gardeners' Question Time

Matthew Biggs | Gardener & Broadcaster

We caught up with Matthew Biggs to chat village shows, plant-based problem solving and chocolate ice cream trees. Trained at The Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Matthew is an expert gardener, writer and broadcaster, and appears regularly on the beloved BBC Radio 4 programme Gardeners' Question Time. He is an author on RHS Great British Village Show.

Your work in five words:

Inspiring, enjoyable, all-consuming, fun.

Your favourite place on earth:

Paxton Pits Nature Reserve in Cambridgeshire when the nightingales are singing.

If your life were a garden, it would grow:

Plants to eat and enjoy, including a hop, vine and the yet to be discovered chocolate ice cream tree.

The village show is a quintessentially British event, but your work has taken you around the world. What’s the most interesting garden you’ve discovered abroad?

Hunte’s Garden in Barbados. It’s in a limestone sink hole, extravagantly planted and full of theatrical leafy lushness and colour. The creator, Anthony Hunte, is a wonderful character who serves the finest rum punch from a teapot, while the voice of Maria Callas drifts over the garden. Bliss.

What’s been your proudest moment of plant-based problem-solving?

Whenever someone starts a question with ‘I have this plant with green leaves and white flowers’ but doesn’t bring in a leaf or flower to show. To get those right is always a thrill!


The delights of the garden can continue into the kitchen. Do you have a favourite recipe to grow and prepare?

A good Mediterranean salad is always enjoyable because it makes you feel healthy while you are eating it. Add chopped fine herbs and sundried tomatoes to all of the freshly harvested traditional crops from the garden, then dress with lemon-infused olive oil.


Who’s the most fascinating person you’ve met in your career?

The plantsman and plant explorer, Roy Lancaster, who remembers the details of every plant he has seen and has the stories to go with them. Roy has travelled extensively and visited China thirteen times, so there is lots to hear and enjoy.

What’s been your all-time favourite question to answer on Gardeners' Question Time?

At the end of the show we always have a question with potential for humour. We were asked ‘What plant would you suggest to represent a politician?’ From somewhere in my head came the answer ‘A Yew, because they tax us.’ (The Latin name for ‘Yew’ is Taxus).

What’s one thing people wouldn’t expect about being a professional gardener?

I would love to have more time to spend in the garden.


What’s the best advice you can give to first-time village show entrants?

Don’t overstretch yourself by entering too many classes, and remember to enjoy the day.


Any predictions on the next big gardening trend?

Forest gardening. It has been around the fringes for a while but is about to become mainstream. This style replicates the layers of vegetation in a natural woodland, using fruit trees and edible plants to make the land more productive.

Enter a world of tents, tea, and terrifically good jam with RHS Great British Village Show. Written by Thane Prince and Matthew Biggs, and with a foreword by Alan Titchmarsh, this is the only guide to a unique British tradition.

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