Jim England, curatorial supervisor, RHS Wisley

- How did you break into the industry?

When I was eight, the local carpenter made me a glasshouse.I started growing my own vegetables and bedding plants. Then, when I went to my local village school, I was involved with growing vegetables for the school kitchen. After A Levels I worked at Pennells growing a variety of plants and I was able to learn propagation techniques and lots of plant names. I studied at Riseholme College and then Writtle, where I stayed on for 10 years, growing vegetables and glasshouse crops. More study followed until I started growing vegetables commercially at AE Burree. Sadly, the company packed up after being squeezed by the supermarkets. I quickly got a job at the Williams Group in Woking, growing tomatoes. I started as trials superintendent at RHS Wisley in 1995 and since then I have worked on the model vegetable garden and the trials field, as well as taking part in shows and filming for TV.

- Who or what was your inspiration?

My grandfather, who was into gardening. But I was also inspired because I lived in the countryside. From an early age I wanted to work in the garden.

- What has been your most difficult job?

Working with the Wiliams Group, because supplying supermarkets was such a hazardous operation. One Friday we supplied a top supermarket with 1,000 boxes of salad cress. They sent it back - not because the quality was poor, but because the weather was going to be bad and they just didn't want it. The supermarkets want something for nothing and have such tight deadlines. That's why so much of our industry has disappeared.

- What is your advice to novices?

Don't specialise too early. A broad knowledge helped me. There are no shortcuts to getting good training and it's good to try a few different areas before you choose a path. And use your contacts.

- How do you relax?

I play badminton and still enjoy my garden at home.

- What does the future hold for you?

I am retiring in November and am currently handing over to the new trials superintendent Jim Arbury. I would like to stay involved at Wisley by giving lectures and working for the advisory service. I think I will find it hard to unwind completely but I've taken up bowling to help me with that.


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