How did you get started? I began growing orchids as a hobby in the late 1970s and then started my own breeding line in 1982. The first show I entered was the Southport Flower Show in 1985, where I won a gold medal. The final show I took part in before I retired was the same one in 2008, where I won the Edith Aveling Gold Cup for the 14th year. I now organise and run orchid days on behalf of Growth Technology at garden centres nationwide.
What advice would you give to others starting out? I always advise people to start with a Phalaenopsis orchid if they are intending to grow the plant in a centrally heated home. Place orchids in good light but not in direct sun. Water between feeding (but do not over-water) and use a good-quality, low-uric content feed.
What does your typical day involve? An orchid event day always has an early start, sometimes as early as 5am. I will arrive at the garden centre at around 9am to set up my stand and be ready to man an orchid clinic or "MOT desk" by 10am. A basic culture talk is aimed at the beginner and will usually last for 30 minutes but can be longer if the customers require. The clinic will then run until I host my re-potting demonstration at around 2pm. I can arrive home as late as 8pm on busy days.
What is the best part of your job? Interacting with people and being able to advise on ailing plants.
And the worst? The early starts and long days.
What is your greatest achievement? Without a doubt, winning the RHS Gold Medal is always a horticulturalist's crowning moment.
How do you wind down after a hard day's work? Reading and not doing too much talking.
Any ongoing projects? My next event with Growth Technology is at Beetham Nurseries in Milnthorpe, Cumbria.
What does the future hold? The traditional orchid industry in the UK has changed beyond recognition and we are moving into an era where quality orchids will be available at unbelievably low prices. My job is to make sure the public are aware of how to make the most of these opportunities, recognise a quality orchid and avoid the inevitable rogue trader or two.