Will Giles – The Greatest Climate Change Gardener

Sat, Jul 20, 2019

Climate Change Gardening

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 lives on forever.

I was very honoured to record a series of videos with Will in the Exotic Garden between 2009 and 2012 . Here is one of my favourite videos where Will and I chat in his wonderful summer house which was located in his Exotic Garden in Norwich about the opportunities to embrace climate change in our gardens and when choosing our plants.

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 meWillGiles 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 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”. Will’s incredible passion for exotic plants is beautifully conveyed in this impressive book.   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

Will’s Exotic Garden in Norwich

Will Giles  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 enjoyed 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 would transport 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.

RIP Will Giles 3/9/2015

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This post was written by:

- who has written 869 posts on My Climate Change Garden.

I am not an experienced gardener - more of an enthusiastic amateur who learns by trial and error and is keen to "manage" the effects of the weather on my garden. Writing this blog is my passion and I hope that it will continue to grow, allowing global gardeners to communicate about the effects of climate change on our plants and the future of our gardens.

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7 Comments For This Post

  1. Charlie MacCormack Says:

    Is it possible to still visit this garden?

  2. Debbie Says:

    Sadly Will’s fantastic garden is longer open to the public.

  3. Frank South Says:

    Will was a close pal at school and when he attended Art College, then when he travelled around the world developing his career we lost touch. He was a good photographer. More than once I spent time with him in his loft whilst he developed and produced great pictures from photos he had taken. I visited his wonderful garden a couple of times. What an inspiration. We spent quite a few evenings going to concerts and listening to music like Frank Zappa and “ Underground “ music. What a miss he is. Taken far too soon. His Mum was a wonderful soul who was one of life’s philosophers. I loved visiting and spent lots of time chatting with her………

  4. Debbie Says:

    Hi Frank

    Lovely to read your happy memories of wonderful Will.
    He was certainly an inspirational human being and I so enjoyed spending time with him in his exotic oasis in Norwich.
    Have just added two videos we recorded together back in Autumn 2009 when his garden was full of the most wonderful plant delights and we chatted together about his passion for exotic plants and why they are easy to grow in our changing climate.
    Do hope that you will enjoy these and it will remind you of Will’s legacy.

    Thanks
    Deborah

  5. Debbie Says:

    Hi Frank

    Lovely to read your happy memories of wonderful Will.
    He was certainly an inspirational human being and I so enjoyed spending time with him in his exotic oasis in Norwich.
    Have just added two videos we recorded together back in Autumn 2009 when his garden was full of the most wonderful plant delights and we chatted together about his passion for exotic plants and why they are easy to grow in our changing climate.

    Hope that you enjoy these videos and they remind you of Will’s legacy.

    Thanks
    Deborah

  6. Frank South Says:

    Thank you for your reply. What I was worried about was that I understand that Wills garden isn’t open any more but what happened to his property. I know his sister Coreen is in Canada ( I met her just once ) but it would be tragic if the whole place were to fall into total disrepair. Are you the blonde lady in the photo sitting with Will on the steps? and lastly how do I watch the videos are they on U Tube?
    All the best,
    Frank South
    PS I met Will last a few years ago at Highway Nurseries and we did have a few words and he invited me to get in touch but I am the roster at this and stress has affected me a lot over time so I never did.

  7. Frank South Says:

    That should have read worst. Not roster!

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