Jez Stamp: A garden star for the future
PUBLISHED: 11:35 31 March 2014 | UPDATED: 11:36 31 March 2014
Our local gardeners can reach for the heights, and Jez Stamp has every reason to look up – and look forward to a great career, says Naomi Slade
There is nothing like going on a garden visit with a fellow plant-nut, so when given the chance to interview Jez Stamp, the Institute of Horticulture Young Horticulturist of the Year 2013, at Harcourt Arboretum in Oxfordshire, I jumped at it.
Growing up near Newbury, Jez was a regular visitor to the arboretum and it has informed his interest in plants ever since. “I always think that woody plants are underused in design,” he says, pausing by a handsome Acer caudatifolium. “I mean, look at this. It is light and airy with an open canopy and it has a lovely, buttery autumn colour. It is similar in leaf shape to Carpinus japonica not in its stature but in effect; it is very graceful.”
In addition to trouncing other young horticulturists in competition, RHS-qualified Jez has worked in nurseries, held a role as a TV researcher for BBC Gardeners’ World and travelled all over the world to study plants. He is now an expert gardener for BBC Radio Bristol and runs his own design and landscaping enterprise.
A well-designed mixed border or summer swathe of perennials offers the pleasure of planting on a plate. But, for Jez, mature designed gardens and woodlands such as arboreta are clearly a very different beast.
“In arboreta you have to work harder. See the inner beauty of the plants; it is gardening at a slower pace,” he says. “With these trees you plant them relatively small and it takes time to get the effect. I admire what show gardens can achieve, but this is a side of things that people don’t think about: how big a plant will be and how much space it will ultimately take up. That takes real skill.”
Deep in the peaceful woods, among the towering pillars, we chat endlessly about his travels and the plants we have both grown, while he peppers the conversation with passing titbits about the trees and shrubs. I make a note of his recommendation that Prunus rufa knocks the socks off Prunus serrula, and discover that Incense cedar, Calocedrus decurrens, is used to make pencils. Even at this time of year the trees are showing a huge variety of colours and bark textures.
Between expressing excitement that he can plant things his grandchildren will see and a short diversion on laying native hedging, Jez pauses; “It is a shame that the plant collecting has been done. I always think I should have been born 200 years ago!”
About Jez Stamp
Jez grew up in Ecchinswell village and attended The Clere School in Burghclere. Both his parents are keen gardeners, interested particularly in self-sufficiency, and he has uncles working in landscaping. He studied at Merrist Wood, Berkshire College of Agriculture and Pickard School of Garden Design, gaining an HND in landscape design and winning the Anne Menhinick Prize for best score for under-30s in the RHS certificate. Jez says he was ‘instantly hooked’ after starting work at Penwood Nurseries in Newbury where he was able to propagate and grow rare and unusual hardy nursery stock.