Ahead of his time in naturalistic planting at the Dorset gardens and nursery Knoll Gardens, Neil Lucas was an innovator in a movement whose time has well and truly come:
"Certainly when I first started it was far more unusual to garden or more importantly to be thinking in this way. For many of our customers it is [now] becoming front and centre.
"I think it is such an important subject...supplying plants that are going to be suitable for the gardens of the future -I think we're just at the beginning of a really exciting new curve".
A career-changer, Neil left a job in the civil service to pursue a career in something he had "always been fascinated in", plants. He started as a gardener and "It was only when I came to Knoll that we also decided that we would need to run a nursery in order to be able to afford the garden."
He talks about the challenges of setting up the nursery from scratch and building a customer base. In days when "the web was just a glint", the main marketing outlet was flower shows and Neil recalls "I spent a fifth of the year in hotel rooms". RHS Chelsea Flower Show, in those days, was worth "a year's worth of advertising".
Neil reflects on how the business negotiated the pandemic and how trade has been since and into the future.
Matt and Neil discuss how important it is to have a "flow of new plants...something fresh in our offering all the time" so "we don't rely too heaviily on too few genetically similar plants". They talk new introductions among the grasses that Knoll specialises in and the importance of grasses in the garden and across the globe, the subject of Neil's latest "comprehensive" book, 'Grasses for Gardens and Landscapes' published by Timber Press.
An RHS council member for many years, Neil offers his view on the RHS strategy and how the charity should balance its work for communities, shows and science into the future.
"At it's heart it's about people who like plants...primarily about people and plants rather than plants."
Presenter: HortWeek editor Matthew Appleby
Producer: HortWeek digital content manager Christina Taylor