We have been enjoying gardening at QVC for many years and I love working with all the experts and you know… they are quite a team. The early starts on Saturday and Sunday mornings are filled with banter and fun as the various characters get ready for their shows.
They all have to put up with a great deal for ribbing from the production crew and the roller coaster of live TV with all the unexpected events, but we, perhaps, don’t get to find out much about them. I thought I’d do a little interview with them all so you could get to know them a little better, and find out some things about them you never knew. So, over the next few months I will post a blog every few weeks with the results of my chats. Now, who should I start with… mmmm?
Richard Jackson has been our resident gardening expert at QVC for many years and has introduced a huge range of plants and plant experts to our customers over the last 20 years. He is no stranger to our TV screens, having been asked to be Gordon the Gophers personal gardener back in the mid 80s on the BBC’s going live with Sara Green and Philip Schofield. So I thought you might like to find out a little more about our favourite green-fingered friend.
Where are you from?
Originally from Brixton in London, I lived in a road where I had celebrity neighbours! I was kissed by Dorothy Squire, when she was married to Roger Moore. They must have fussed over me as baby and I‘ve been sprinkled with startdust ever since.
Where do you live now?
I Live in the countryside now near High Wycombe.
Can you tell me about your family?
Two sons, Chris and Nick (who have both been on QVC), my daughter Sarah, and my long-suffering wife Val
What started your passion/interest in gardening?
My grandfather lived up in Yorkshire where he and my gran ran shop in Runswick Bay. My grandfather was made redundant from the steel mills and they started a boarding house where he began gardening an allotment to grow vegetables for the table. He encouraged me to grow strawberries and when I tasted my first strawberry, sun-ripened in the Yorkshire sun, I was hooked for life. I started work for Hilliers and then worked for Fisons (which is where my great interest in compost grew (insert link to his compost) and have started gardening centres where I learned the importance of talking to customers about what they want.
How would you encourage a child or grandchild to get interested in gardening now?
Get them to grow things that are productive that they can taste. Get them to grow things that grow fast, like sunflowers and have a little complication with them. Excite them with the wonders of the plant world with things like venus fly traps. Gardening can be fun so excite them with the opportunity to do things and don’t save the worst part of the garden for them, give them a good part that will deliver lots to look forward to.
What is your favourite plant and why?
I am not sure I can choose a single plant as my favourite. I have different favourites at different times of the year. At the moment I have one Cornus Venus, a dogwood, introduced to me at Chelsea by Roy Lancaster about five years ago (curator of Hillier Arboretum). It’s a small tree that produces these huge white flowers fluttering like handkerchiefs. It has great berries and wonderful autumn colour.
I also adore tomatoes! I love the smell of the leaves, their little flowers and the stage when the first fruits develop. I get huge joy from the humble tomato plant. I also lam very passionate about Dahlias and although it’s a little out of vogue at the moment, I think it’s a great plant and I have lots in my garden and I think people should grow more. I love to grow new plants and grow something new each year. When things don’t work terribly well, I feel as though I have learned something but when they do well, it’s a real thrill. Gardeners are always learning and all the experiences are part of the journey!
Where is the ‘best’ garden you have ever seen?
Perhaps Longwood garden near Philadelphia. It’s a bit like Wisley and Kew combined on a huge scale. It was owned by the Dupont family and then given to the nation with a view to educate. The staff will always stop and talk to you about what they are doing and I love the way it has been divided up. It’s huge and beautifully-maintained with water gardens and huge glass houses. I love the way that it shares its beauty and knowledge with all visitors. It’s a wonderful place to see new plants and new ideas and I love the sharing way they welcome members of the public.
Apart from gardening what are your interests and hobbies?
I do love gardening as a hobby. For me, it’s like mindfulness so very calming. Photography is a real passion for me and I have taken loads of photographs (not just of plants) and used to be in the darkroom all the time developing and printing, but haven’t really got into the digital editing side of things yet. I enjoy choosing photographs for my diary every year. I have got my own wet suit now and love to be in the surf but haven’t yet mastered the art of windsurfing.
Who is the most memorable/famous person you have ever met?
I was once at a charity event and met Princess Diana. She had the most incredible energy and yet was so calm and serene. She made you feel very special. I expected her to be a little fragile but she had huge presence. Also I was very lucky, when doing a radio show with Pete Murray, that the door opened with huge clouds of talcum powder wafting through and there before me stood Barbara Cartland… a very special moment. But also, doing some work with my Charity ‘Green Fingers’, I met a lady who had a child with a life-threatening condition and then found that her baby who had been fine , was also diagnosed with the same life-threatening condition, and she had come to the garden charity event as she wanted to help and give something back. She launched ‘a million steps’ campaign to raise money for the hospice and with the help of a lot of people each doing just a step at a time they raised a load of money. I found her strength and character to be very inspiring and meeting her was hugely humbling.
Describe your perfect holiday
I really like to spend time with people and I am looking forward to exploring some exotic destinations but in order for it to be a perfect holiday I would need some friends with me to share the experience. I would love to explore the trail to Machu Picchu in the near future.
How would you describe working at QVC?
I do love it, I love the production team, despite their constant ribbing. What I like most is being able to talk to so many people about gardening at the same time. When I worked in a garden centre I could only talk to a few people in a day and so QVC allows me to talk to so many more. Even though I have done quite a bit of TV in my time I still find the whole process fascinating, especially when things go wrong!
What makes you most happy?
Being at one with nature is something that makes me smile and tick. I enjoy being with people and whilst I can work by myself I have to be with people and perhaps my favourite is having a drink and BBQ and chinwag about things.
If you had to write your own epitaph, what would you say? (Mine would be “…seemed like a good idea at the time”)
I never want to say: “I wish I had tried that…”or “if only…” So something like “He tried….”
What is the number one thing on your bucket list?
I want to crack windsurfing. I can get out but I can’t get back so I need to sort that and I have my own wetsuit now so… Also I would love to play the drums in an orchestra in the 1812 overture. Ever since I saw Charlie Drake do the pastiche of it I have always wanted to be up there with some giant Kettle drums!
Do you have any pet hates? (Probably best not mention QVC here!)
Arrogance! I really hate it.