Writing a book about plants as a horticulturist: Five questions with Miranda Janatka

Miranda Janatka

Miranda Janatka, author of ‘A Flower A Day’ and senior content creator for BBC Gardeners’ World Magazine, speaks to HortWeek about what it is like making the change from botanical horticulturist at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew to writer and author.

How did the book come about?

Writing a ‘A Flower A Day’ has been such a pleasure, I’ve really enjoyed the research, writing, and curating of such a beautiful collection. Botanical facts, histories and folklores about 366 of some of the most interesting plants, the book makes for a lovely present, readers have told me they are enjoying savouring a page a night. I was approached by Batsford Books who make gorgeous publications, they found me on the Garden Media Guild website database. Any gardeners interested in writing, blogging or podcasting, etc. should definitely get involved with the GMG, it’s a great place for resources and making connections. I’ve spoken to horticulture students before about the benefits of gardening and writing hybrid work, it can be really useful to have a bit of both going on, and help you keep well connected with other horticulturists and gardens.

What's your next one?

I am very excited to currently be writing another beautiful book about plants for Batsford Publishing. Please do ask me again next spring and I promise to spill the beans for you then and reveal everything, watch this space!

You spent several years at Kew and have now been a garden writer for a similar time - what are the pros and cons of each?

Everyone reading this will know the pros of being a gardener – I love the people, the plants, the feel of the earth, the warm steam from the mulch on a frosty morning, and the cold beer together after a good and physically exhausting week’s work. But working as a writer meant more flexibility for me, being able to relocate out of a tiny flat in West London into a space with our own garden.

My fiancé is Andrew Luke, head gardener of Wrest Park in Bedfordshire, and after 17 years at Kew, he was excited to take on a large historic renovation project of his own. We both love living out here in Bedfordshire, Andrew can get to work for his early start and I can do some of my writing, magazine feature co-ordinating and podcast work from home –watching our chickens and dog destroy the garden, when there isn’t a lock down or avian ‘cluck down’ anyway.

I also now get to meet even more experts and people from the horticulture industry than ever before. There are so many different ways of doing things, seeing how people work in lots of different contexts and spaces can only improve your gardening knowledge. In return I get to share good horticultural practice and encourage a passion for gardening with millions of people through the pages, live events and podcast of BBC Gardeners’ World Magazine, as well as the history and beauty of flowers in ‘A Flower A Day’. Having the odd lunch with Alan Titchmarsh isn’t bad either!

Wrest Park - the Hollywood of Bedfordshire - please explain!

Wrest Park is a bit of a well-kept secret. Just an hour out of London, the grandeur of the 95 acres of formal garden, huge parterres, manor house and incredible iconic views attracts attention from all the must-see period dramas, such as The Crown and Bridgeton which are filmed there.

The English Heritage garden is currently undergoing a 20-year restoration project, and history buffs enjoy visiting the site as it boasts 300 years of garden history including work by Capability Brown. You can find out more from the BBC Countryfile episode which includes reports of the restoration project. Andrew oversees a team of 10 gardeners, including three students each year as part of the Historic and Botanic Garden Training Programme (HBGTP) so do keep an eye out for jobs if interested, as opportunities do come up!

A Flower A Day is out now, published by Batsford Books, £20

You can find Miranda on Instagram: @miranda.janatka


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