Meet the trainees who helped Alan create the fabulous gardens this series:
Charles is 29 and has been passionate about gardening since he was a teenager. He loves the idea of bringing ‘order to chaos’ in the world of horticulture. Charles works an allotment and his ultimate goal is to one day live off the land. As well as being a keen gardener, Charles is a film buff and an accomplished percussionist. When he’s not in the garden, Charles loves drumming with his band.
Charles was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome, a high-functioning form of autism, as a child. He tries to see it as a blessing but it’s not always easy.
Says Charles: ‘The best way to describe it is like being an alien from a different planet, really, that’s crash landed, and I’m thinking: “Who are these people?” and “How is it I can’t read their faces or their body language very well?”. But I’m proud of having a form of autism. I think it’s a lot of fun being me.’
Thomas is 18. He was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome when he was 7.
He caught the gardening bug when he was 12; he has many happy memories of helping out his Grandmother in her garden and his love of horticulture grew from there.
He lives at home with his Mum and sister and loves nothing more than the tranquillity his allotment offers him. It’s here that Thomas can revel in his love of symmetry and attention to detail: ‘I’ve really always had an affection for gardening. I like to have things being symmetrical, connecting to each other in one formal straight line.’
Thomas’ dream is to one day become a professional gardener.
Philip is 30 and a big collector of exotic plants. He’s been collecting cacti since he was a child and has amassed a magnificent collection of over 100.
His love of gardening started when he was three and for as long as he can remember, Philip has had a fascination with unusual plants. His favourite tree is the monkey puzzle as “it looks so weird.”
Philip has Asperger’s Syndrome. He wasn’t diagnosed until he was 14 which made school tough. Like a lot of autists, Philip finds social situations difficult, not made any easier by the fact that he speaks with a squeaky voice.
‘I didn’t think anyone liked me,’ says Philip. ‘They all said I sounded like a mouse, but you know, that’s the way I am.’
Victoria is 27 and spends all her spare time in the family’s back garden tending her plants. She started gardening when she was four, helping her Mum out and enjoys growing vegetables and getting her hands dirty: ‘I love the bits where you have to take out all the old roots and dig holes for the plants. I find it strangely satisfying.’
It wasn’t until she was 11 that Victoria was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome which, as she says, ‘was a bit late but I just felt unique, equal to everyone else but different. I’m quite brainy in one half, but on the other half my concentration lapses a bit…if there’s no distractions then I’m okay!’
Like a lot of autists, Victoria has found it difficult to get a job but her aim is to one day become a professional gardener.
James is 25 and lives at home with his Mum, Dad and brother and has Asperger’s Syndrome.
Like a lot of autists, James finds social situations difficult; maintaining conversations isn’t easy and he struggles to look you in the eye but he has an amazing memory – his knowledge of plants is almost as brilliant as his knowledge of locomotives. He loves nothing more than tending his vegetable patch.
“I think I enjoy gardening so much as it’s the best way to be close to nature.” says James. “My favourite plant is lavender as it attracts so many insects”.