Dan Norton tells us how he got into horticulture

Hello! My name’s Dan and I’m a self employed, professional gardener in west cornwall.

I get asked a lot “how did you get into gardening?” and frankly, I’m not really sure! My standard response is “well, my grandparents were keen gardeners and my mum likes her garden so I guess I just picked it up” but that’s not really true. It’s true in as much as they were keen gardeners and my mum even wanted to be a horticulturist in her youth, but I had no interest in it whatsoever!

So how DID I get into gardening?? Well…..

10 years ago I was working as a professional musician. I play the mandolin, which is a bit unusual, and I’m fairly good at it (if I do say so myself) so I was in fairly high demand and spent my weeks touring the country performing, teaching, studio work and all that faff. Great! Except life went at a million miles an hour. I practically lived on trains and buses and slept on friends sofas and in railway stations or on studio floors which, after a few years, got a bit much.

So what’s that got to do with anything? Well every now and then I’d get some free time and would head back to stay with my folks. I would invariably, to earn my keep I guess, wind up cutting the grass. Then I’d be off again! Busy busy, rush rush and all that. Then, a few weeks later, back to my folks. Cut the grass, maybe do the edging and then off!

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This went on for ages until one day I was sat on a train, staring blankly out the window when I spotted a van. ‘Bobs gardening services’ or some such name was (fairly badly) written along the side and I swear something on the train actually went “PING”! That was it, I realised I wanted to be a gardener! No, it was more than just that. I realised I actually loved gardening! Really loved it!! The times I’d been back to my parents house and gone out into the garden had become the highlights of my life as a musician and I would spend longer and longer out there each visit, weeding and planting and (what i thought was) pruning. I’d even started doing some neighbours gardens and actually built up a really good reputation.

The peace and tranquility of pottering in the garden, feeling the wind and the sunshine on my skin, mud under my fingernails, listening to the birds in the trees and all the insects buzzing around was just heaven on earth. Even all the aches and pains and cuts and scratches that inevitably arise from a day in the garden just melted away when I stood back and looked at what I’d created.

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So I did a bit of research (I also learnt to drive and got a car which helped), ‘borrowed’ a load of tools from my parents and tentatively declared myself a self employed gardener!! I dropped a few leaflets around and soon had my first customer.

I very quickly realised that, outside of my parents garden, I really knew very little about gardening! If I was ever going to build up a good reputation, I was gonna need to know my stuff so bought and read almost every gardening book ever written, bought magazines, started watching gardeners world and even enrolled on a correspondence course to study for the RHS level 2 principles of horticulture exams! I was blown away by the world of horticulture and the more I learnt how everything worked the more I loved it!

Which brings me to today. Almost 7 years after starting my business it’s still going strong. I’ve gained a vast amount of knowledge and built a fantastic reputation and I couldn’t imagine doing anything else! I’m writing this after having spent the past 2 days sitting 8 RHS exams. I’m still learning every single day and enjoying every second of it!

So thats my story…. Whats yours?

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Follow me on twitter @DPNorton84 or check out my Facebook page http://www.facebook.com/dpnortongardens

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