I was born and brought up in South Buckinghamshire. I read Botany at University College Oxford. After 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 medals at the Chelsea Flower Show London. In 2009 the Botanic Garden was one of seven Oxford collections to be awarded a Queen’s Anniversary Prize for providing imaginative educational programmes for adults, students, 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, Art Societies, WIs, and many other types of group. I have given more than 2000 talks in Britain, Ireland, Germany, France, North America, and Australia to more than 150,000 people in audiences ranging from 20 to 350.
In 2010 I was elected as a Fellow of the Linnaean Society of London.
From August 2014 I have been a lecturer in Plant Sciences at Somerville College, Oxford, and I now hold similar positions at Pembroke College and Hertford College.