Freelance Focus with gardening writer Susie White

Susie White is the author of seven gardening books and also a garden designer, writer, photographer and artist. In this Focus interview she talks about her experience and influences ranging from Northumberland to Cuba.

About your journalism:

What do you write about?
I’m a garden writer, member of the Garden Media Guild, and use my own photographs in much of my work. Having spent the past twenty-two years designing and managing Chesters Walled Garden on Hadrian’s Wall, I base my observations on my own practical experience of the gardening year. Since my garden has a naturalistic design and is organically run, my particular interests are wildlife, organic and biodynamic gardening, herbs, unusual perennials and wildflowers. I particularly love to interview the owners and write about other people’s gardens as there is such a wealth and variety of them in the north of England.

Where are we likely to see your work?
I’ve written seven books on gardening, the most recent being A Sense of Herbs which is a very personal selection with my own drawings. It’s a perfect example of low book-miles! It’s written & illustrated by me from my garden near Hexham, with a stunning cover by my son, Tom and is published and printed in Hexham on recycled paper. I write for both national and county magazines, design gardens and give gardening lectures (I am on the RHS Speakers List). I do the publicity for the National Gardens Scheme in Northumberland and Durham, which means I know a lot about northern gardens; seven of these I’ve recently written about for Amateur Gardening.

What’s the most memorable work you’ve done?
A recent book the Gardens of Northumberland and the Borders which was a wonderful project to work on, a real treat, and uses Simon Fraser’s evocative photographs. It took me to some amazing places such as the sculpture garden at Little Sparta, the Edwardian grandeur of Manderston and Sir Walter Scott’s Abbotsford.

What interview or feature would you love the chance to do?
I would love to write for the Country Diary in the Guardian as I am so much in touch with rural living. The column has been going for over a century, has a great following, and I’d love to be able to contribute.

Where do you source ideas for articles?
That’s easy because I garden every day so I am really aware of the rhythm of the seasons. Although I read the gardening press, I want all my articles to have the authority that comes from personal experience.

About PRs

How can PRs be useful to you?
I need PRs to tell me of the latest developments in biological controls, tools & equipment, plant breeding etc… and if anyone has a truly non-kinking hosepipe they’d like me to trial, I’d be delighted!

How do you like them to get in touch?
Email – and to ask for a receipt so they know it has got through my spam guard!

Do you find press conferences, trips, parties and other events useful or an interruption?
I’m often too busy to attend events, but far too many of them are just in the south of England anyway.

If you could make one change to the way PRs deal with you, what would it be?
I sometimes get badly laid out press releases that aren’t in HTML text and are frankly rather wordy and dull to look at. But a well designed press release that has clarity and is enlivened with pictures is far more effective.

About you:

How would you pay the bills if you weren’t a journalist?
Garden writing is only a part of what I do but it’s the thing that I love doing just as equally as gardening itself. I really enjoy the whole process of meeting other gardeners, finding out what makes their ideas special and the creativity of evoking a particular place.

If we gave you £1000, how would you spend it?
I’d really like to go to Cuba before it changes – to see the amazing architecture of course but also the many city gardens that have sprung on patches of unused land out of the need to be self-sufficient in vegetables. I’m passionate about allotments and the need to keep them from being built on. They are such wonderfully creative places, re-using materials in inventive ways, social and multicultural, good for fitness and of course for producing fresh vegetables at low cost. I saw the Cuban gardens on Monty Don’s Around the World in 80 gardens programme and immediately wanted to go there!

What books are on your bedside table, magazines in your bag, or blogs on your screen?
It’s too big for a bedside table but my favourite, the ultimate beautiful book has to be Gardener’s Labyrinth with the incredible photographs of Tessa Treager. It’s a masterful work that came out of an exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery. As to blogs, I write my own at, which is fun to do, and I can put in whatever is happening in the walled garden along with some of the amazing wildlife that I see.
[lnk||_blank|Susie White on the Freelance Journalist Directory]
[img|jpg|Susie White and two of her books, A Sense of Herbs and Gardens of Northumberland and the Borders]

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