Wilde about gardening

Kim Wilde juggles a busy pop and gardening career, family life and her garden. She speaks to Lucy Land about her latest book, The First-time Gardener.

Kim Wilde reached the dizzy heights of pop superstardom in the 1980s with a string of hits including Kids in America, Chequered Love and You Keep me Hangin’ On. Today she’s also hugely successful in a rather different field: Gardening.

She has designed and created many gardens for TV’s Better Gardens and Garden Invaders, presented daytime coverage of the prestigious Royal Horticultural Society Chelsea Flower Show and The Great Garden Guide as well as gardening slots for GMTV and This Morning, and has been a columnist for a variety of publications. She has also codesigned a number of award-winning show gardens, including scooping Gold for her romantic Cumbrian Fellside Garden at last year’s Chelsea Flower Show.

Speaking from her mobile while on the move, Kim reminisces about her emerging interest in gardening: ‘Moving from a grey semi-detached house in south east London to a thatched cottage in the Hertfordshire countryside when I was eight years old was an incredible experience. Neighbours grew their own food, family friends were artists who grew creative gardens with sculptures – it was a new life.’ Educated at Girls school, Presdales, Ware, Kim went on to complete a foundation course at St Albans College of Art and Design in 1980. It wasn’t until she married her co-star from the London’s West End production of Tommy, Hal Fowler in 1996 and wanting to have children as soon as possible that she decided to move to her 16th century renovated barn between Codicote and Welwyn, which she had bought six years previously. ‘It was a blank canvas. I planted a vine, which I had been told would be hardy enough for our garden – never believing it would be – and it now produced tons of grapes. I wanted to create an enchanted, fun place for the family.’ Kim hasn’t looked back since. While pregnant, she began studying horticulture and planting design at Enfield’s famous Capel Manor College, and was quickly snapped up by talent scouts for Channel 4’s Better Gardens.

The mum of two released her first book, Gardening with Children last year. ‘I strongly believe that gardening for children is a natural; I’ve never come across a child who wasn’t completely entranced by a pot of garden soil.’

This year’s follow-up, The First-time Gardener, is another beautifully illustrated book. Assuming no prior knowledge, Kim uses simple step-by-step instructions to take you through the basics of planning a garden to understanding soil types, climate, planting schemes, hard landscaping and choosing plants, with an emphasis on organic gardening. She also assesses the importance of taking time and lifestyle requirements into your budget as well as looking at what you have already in your garden.

Kim’s philosophy on gardening underlines her passion: ‘We live in a quick-fix, fast food world. I don’t know what stress was until I hit 30. Gardens are great stress-neutralisers and gardening has taught me patience. Although I do eight-hour garden makeovers on programmes, gardening involved planning months or even a whole year ahead; planting for tomorrow. It is a life-time pursuit.’ Without doubt, The First-time Gardener is an inspiring book written by a recognised expert in the field.