It is with the considerable pride that I take on the role of ‘President’ of the Adel and District Horticultural Society, a society that has seen the art and love of gardening flourish over many generations. 

My interest in gardening started in my early years when I would help my grandfather sow sweet peas (my grandmother’s favourite flower).  Fortunately for me we were encouraged to garden at school and indeed my high school (Benton Park Grammar School Rawdon) had a school garden, and rural science section. Here my passion and interest grew despite the fact that in many other subjects I found what was going on outside the window much more interesting, a sign of the future maybe?

On leaving school I was offered an apprenticeship with Leeds City Council, starting as a gardener at Golden Acre Park. The Head Gardener Mr Frank Banister helped develop both my practical skills and appreciation for high standards in gardening. After a year I moved on to our Central Nursery, then on to our Tree Surgery section at Gledhow Valley and Temple Newsam Estate.

I was offered a position as ‘Charge-hand ‘supervising the outdoor staff at Roundhay Park, a role that introduced me to many non-horticultural tasks such as events, Christmas lights and landscape construction.  It was at one such event (the Leeds Flower Show) that I met Joe Maiden a friendship that was to shape my future and intensify my interest in gardening.

I was appointed Head Gardener at Golden Acre after Mr Banister retired and worked there with Joe to create the Demonstration Garden, Woodland, Arboretum and plant collections. Joe also introduced me to the art of giving talks, judging and exhibiting. My first experience of ‘Show Gardens’ was at the ‘Garden Festivals’ an experience that would prove invaluable for my future exploits.

As the Parks Department became a more contractually focused service, I was asked to help move elements of the service into a more commercially driven operations, this included modernising our Central Nursery and developing Temple Newsam into a visitor attraction, and our early entries at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show (1997-8).

Latterly my role as part of the senior management team involved concentrating my efforts in developing commercial services and our show garden entries to the RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2006 – 2011). The highlight of our Chelsea journey was, of course the Gold Medals awarded in 2010 and 2011.

Following my retirement in August 2011, I was asked to design and build a show garden in the educational section of the RHS Chelsea Flower Show for Leeds University; another Gold medal in the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Year was a special experience too.

Just as I thought it was time to concentrate on my own garden I was offered the opportunity to take on the Head Gardeners role at one of my favourite gardens ‘York Gate’, a relatively brief encounter, two years four months, but an opportunity to immerse myself in a garden of exceptional character and charm, Created by the Spencer family whom have very close associations with the society.

My career has been like a dream, offering me an incredible opportunity to work in a profession a love most dearly; in fact I don’t see it as a career more a life journey that I plan to continue as long as I can hold a spade. The encouragement of my mentors and the way they freely gave their knowledge and encouragement is testament to the philosophy of all gardeners, whether in the profession or as a pastime.  I truly believe that an interest in gardening is good for the soul and a healthy hobby, but in order to develop skills and share knowledge we must strive to keep gardening groups and societies going. They provide an incredible pool of skills; knowledge, humour and social value whether you are new to gardening or have spent a whole career in it.

 ‘Long may they continue’?

Martin Walker