I was born and brought up in South Buckinghamshire and at the age of 13 went to school in Abingdon. From there I read Botany at University College Oxford. Upon graduation, I worked for two years as a trainee at the University of Oxford Botanic Garden. I then took a National Certificate in Horticulture at Askham Bryan College York. This was followed by a one-year traineeship at the Savill Garden Windsor, and 15-months as a diploma student at the Royal Botanic Gardens Kew. In 1995 I was awarded a Master of Horticulture by the Royal Horticultural Society of London.
From January 1986 to July 2014 I worked at the University of Oxford Botanic Garden & Harcourt Arboretum, firstly as General Foreman, then as Horti Praefectus (from 1988) and finally as Director (from 2002). Between 1992 & 2000 the OBGHA won 4 gold, 2 silver-gilt, and one silver medal at the Chelsea Flower Show London. In 2009 the OBGHA was one of seven Oxford collections to be awarded a Queen’s Anniversary Prize. The University’s museums, libraries and archives are an exceptional resource, accessed by more than two million people each year. Now resources from seven institutions – including the Botanic Garden, Harcourt Arboretum, the Ashmolean Museum, and the Bodleian Library – are being taken out to local schools, shopping centres and other public places. The programme provides imaginative educational programmes for researchers, learners, children and the general public, thereby breathing new life into education for people of all ages and enriching their lives.
Since 1986 I have been giving lectures to gardening clubs, horticultural societies, WIs, and many other types of group. I have given more than 1,500 talks in Britain, Ireland, North America, and Australia to more than 100,000 people in audiences ranging from 20 to 350. Since 1992 I have been a research lecturer in the Department of Plant Sciences Oxford and I lecture to all three years of the Biological Sciences course. Some of these lectures are the basis of my public lectures. Since 1994 I have been a non-stipendiary college lecturer in Plant Conservation at Somerville College Oxford and I have held a similar position at Pembroke College Oxford since 2007. In 2010 I was elected as a Fellow of the Linnaean Society of London.
I am currently a stipendiary lecturer in Plant Sciences at Somerville College Oxford.