gardens5 min read

Spring gardening tips from Chelsea Flower Show Gold Medalist, Paul Holt

Paul Holt

WordsMegan Lambert


It was a blustery Sunday afternoon when we pottered on over to the leafy East London De Beauvoir neighbourhood to meet with Paul Holt, Creative Director at N1 Garden Centre. Housed in a former button factory, we first came across this urban space at last year’s RHS Chelsea Flower Show when this little London garden centre won ‘best in show’ for the first-ever Houseplant Studios category.

Well, we’ve said goodbye to autumn and hello to spring. That’s why we thought there’d be no better time to chat with Paul about his top tips for novice gardeners and how to prep your garden for spring.

The clue is in the name, but what was your inspiration behind ‘Celebrate Autumn with Plants’ at last year’s Chelsea Flower Show? 

Well, it was such an unusual RHS Chelsea Flower Show, because of the pandemic, it was the first time in its 100+ year history it had been held in autumn. It had been such a tough time, we really just wanted to go to town with the autumnal color palette and embrace it as a kid! Chestnuts, jumping into crunchy leaves—and of course, autumnal coloured plants like Coral bead, Orange king, Bird of Paradise, and Eternal Flame (plus a few pumpkins). Houseplants don’t have to be green!

Paul Holt Chelsea Flower Show

Gardening saw a massive boom during the pandemic. Any tips for the novice gardener? 

For anyone who started gardening during the pandemic, my top tip would be to just keep it up. I encourage anyone to tend to their plants as regularly as you can—for the well-being of yourself and your plants. Gardens take time, so the best time to start is now. If you don’t succeed the first time, try again! It’s like exercise, you just need to stick with it.

What do you predict the biggest garden trends of 2022 to be?

Gardeners are wanting to be more wildlife and environmentally friendly. As individuals, we’re thinking about how the plants we grow in our garden can help the city: pots full of wildflowers and pollinators for bees and insects. Going plastic-free and using reclaimed or recycled materials is another big one. We stock pots by the ‘Hairy Pot Co.’ which are a great alternative. In the warmer months, I think we’ll continue to see more people working from their gardens.

Find out how you can rewild your garden.

Wild garden

Spring is finally here! What are your top 3 tips for gardeners to get their space ready for the summer season?

  1. Kick everything into action with a good clean-up. Dead leaves and mulch are where bugs, pests, and diseases harbor so clear those out and give everything a good prune. If you leave your seed heads, cut off seed heads and dead leaves because you don’t want the new ones coming through.

  2. Re-pot, upsize, and add some slow-release fertilizer (this should keep you going through March to October).

  3. Now for the fun part: work out what you’re going to do with the rest of your space. If you’ve got lots of sun, go for some herbs.

What are your favorite (almost) unkillable indoor and outdoor plants?

  1. The cast iron plant. This got its name for good reason. Great for cold rooms and shady spaces, this will survive under almost any conditions. 

  2. Any Syngonium varieties, otherwise known as the goosefoot plant. Tough and beautiful, they come in intricate patterns. Happiest in warm and moist conditions, so perfect for a bathroom. 

  3. And finally, the ZZ plant is great for shade and, native to eastern African, it will tolerate forgetful waterers! 

Your top 3 eco-friendly gardening tips?

Ok, you asked for three but here are four! 

  1. Plants for bees and insects (Geranium ‘Rozanne’ is a spreading plant that the bees will love all summer long).

  2. If you can, grow your own veg. If you’re short for space, a window box of herbs and edibles will do the trick. And opt for organic fertilizers, compost, and seeds—it’s better for you and the environment.

  3. Where possible, try and buy locally. This can be a little tricky, but local growers will usually have a label. A good indicator that it’s grown abroad is that it will have a plant passport.

  4. And lastly, go for peat-free compost. It’s not something a lot of us think about, but our peat bogs are really valuable ecosystems. It takes 100 years to form just 100 mm of peat! They’re full of carbon so when they’re dug up that is released.