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Will Giles – The Greatest Exotic Gardener

14. September 2015

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Will Giles was one of the greatest advocates for exotic gardening in the UK.

exoitc-garden-010-538x403 Sadly Will is no longer with us but his vast experience and extensive knowledge of exotic gardening in the UK will live on forever.

Will Giles was a leading pioneer for UK exotic gardening and to evidence his passion, he created an exceptional exotic garden in the heart of Norwich. Protected from severe frost by being located on a slope and surrounded by tall trees,walls and buildings to preserve heat and limit wind damage, The Exotic Garden enjoys a unique microclimate that enabled Will to create a hidden oasis of tropical calm  in a busy city.

Every summer The  Exotic Garden Open Days  have transported thousands of visitors  to a tropical paradise. With his trademark floral shirts, Will delighted in showing his creative planting designs and unbelievable range of beautiful exotic plants -many of which traditional horticulturalists believed would not endure the UK weather.

exotic delights 034 The Exotic Garden was created on a limited budget  with buckets of botanical vision and Will’s revolutionary desire for breaking every horticultural rule. Will’s love of exotic plants was unrivalled. His greatest joy was to share his extensive plant knowledge and obsession for exotic species with visitors to the garden as well as being a regular contributor to the online exotic gardening community.

I was very honoured to record a series of videos with Will in the Exotic Garden between 2009 and 2012 . These will  remain as a lasting legacy to Will and have been posted at the bottom of this page for visitors to enjoy.

Another video that shows Will’s enthusiasm and knowledge for exotic plants is the  BBC coverage with the enigmatic James Wong discussing their joint  passion for exotic plants when he visited The Exotic Garden.  http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p01p7y1n

Will Giles had a vision for the UK’s changing climate

will-gilesOne of the most important things I learnt from Will was always to experiment with planting and explore the traditional boundaries of plant hardiness. His innovative ideas about what UK gardeners can actually grow in our unpredictable climate have seriously changed and challenged the range of plant varieties that many gardeners choose to grow today.

Will was convinced that climate change is happening. He embraced changing UK weather patterns that are bringing more extreme climatic conditions and less defined seasons. He saw this as  a unique opportunity to embrace planting a wider range of exotic plants – a view he always expressed with “You have to go with the flow”. If the climate continues to change over the next 50 years, I predict more tropical and exotic gardens will be planted in his memory.

will and meI will miss wandering around The Exotic Garden chatting to the man who defied the British weather and put micro-climate gardening at the forefront of UK horticulture – especially in Norfolk which is not traditionally known for tropical and exotic planting.

exoitc-garden-005

Will Giles has left a massive legacy for gardeners all over the world to continue experimenting with exotic plants. This philosophy of “breaking new ground” is  explained in  an exceptional book that he wrote entitled “The Encyclopedia of Exotic Gardening for Temperate Climates”. I would like to end this brief tribute to Will’s incredible passion for exotic plants with some inspirational words from this impressive book. They demonstrate how Will pushed against horticultural boundaries and created exciting new opportunities for UK gardeners to experiment with plants:

“There is tremendous joy in growing something in your garden that isn’t supposed to be hardy.”

“Whether you are a fair-weather gardener or the type who will work in the garden all through the winter whatever the sky throws at you, this style of gardening is absorbing and innovative, as much experimentation is involved. You may not always be successful, but when you are, the results are astounding.”

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Encyclopedia-Exotic-Plants-Temperate-Climates/dp/0881927856

RIP Will Giles 3/9/2015

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