Joe Swift reveals his tale of gardening success at Clair Hall, Haywards Heath

Joe Swift
Joe Swift

Gardening personality Joe Swift brings his latest show to Clair Hall, Haywards Heath, on Friday, February 10.

The TV presenter digs deep to reveal his fascinating story, from his rock ’n’ roll youth to becoming one of the top garden designers in the UK.

Audiences can find out what happens behind the scenes at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show and Gardeners World and find out what it takes to get a Chelsea Show gold medal.

Gardening has long been a mainstay on British television, and Joe is currently one of the genre’s most popular small screen presenters.

He’s also written books, such as The Plant Room and Joe’s Urban Garden Handbook. Away from the cameras and covers, he gets involved in community and school gardens, and is an ambassador for the National Gardens Scheme and patron of the Horniman Museum.

“Over the years a lot of funny stories have come up,” Joe says. “For the show, I’ll have a lot of slides and visuals, but it’s not an evening lecture about gardening, it’s much more light entertainment.”

Joe’s convoluted route into the gardening world will be familiar to many in his audience no matter their own chosen profession.

“I’m the classic art school drop-out. I felt a little bit in the lurch so did some travelling and went to spend time on a kibbutz. Friends of mine had been there and hardly spent any money, yet came back looking healthy and tanned; all you had to do was get yourself there.”

So, Joe spent six months in Israel, working in the fish ponds, quickly becoming hooked on life in the fresh air.

“I just loved working outdoors so when I came back to London with one art A-level to my name, I started working for this landscape gardening company. It was for this guy who was half-actor half-gardener, and I worked beside this hippy gardener called Antonia who was amazing and taught me so much. I started at the bottom, mixing up cement for the landscaping guys and later I went to Australia to landscape in Melbourne and Sydney. I had experience behind me so when I came back to the UK I studied garden design properly.”

In some way, Joe Swift’s journey to expressing that deep passion and genuine love for his job on a stage could perhaps be seen as inevitable. After all, he has actors and writers in his family: his dad is Clive Swift who most famously played the brow-beaten husband in BBC sitcom Keeping Up Appearances while his mother is acclaimed novelist Margaret Drabble. And his late uncle, David Swift, was best known as the badly-behaved news anchor Henry Davenport in Channel 4’s classic ’90s satire, Drop The Dead Donkey.

“People say that it’s in the blood but I’m not so sure,” reckons Joe. “The funny thing is that I forgot my lines at my primary school’s nativity play. Both my parents went to Cambridge and my brother and sister went to Oxford yet I was an art school drop-out. But yes, I did end up writing and performing; it’s just that I’m so passionate about gardens and gardening that I’ve really just found my thing.”

The show starts at 8pm. Tickets cost £16. Call 01444 455440.

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