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Me & My Job - Claire Austin, owner, Claire Austin Hardy Plants

Grow, 21 May 2015

Claire Austin, owner, Claire Austin Hardy Plants - image: Clive Nichols
Claire Austin, owner, Claire Austin Hardy Plants - image: Clive Nichols

How did you get started in the industry? Having returned from Tanzania in 1983, my then husband wanted a change of career. My father had great success at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show that year — his English roses had hit the headlines, which meant that he no longer had time to look after the perennial sideline he was building up, so I took it over.

What advice would you give to others starting out? Learn from others and talk to as many nurserymen as you can. They are the ones with the experience. In the early days I shall never forget the advice and encouragement David Howard gave me.

What does your typical day involve? First I chat to Ann, who looks after the office, to make sure that there are no customer problems. Then I check if we need extra stock. Then I grab my camera, take a good look at the plants in the garden and on the stock beds.

What is the best aspect of your job? Playing with plants — sourcing new varieties and rediscovering old ones. Then combining them with others and watching them grow.

And the worst? Dealing with big business and organisational bureaucracy.

What has been your biggest achievement at work? I hope that I have inspired gardeners to grow perennials and that they have found them easy and rewarding.

How do you wind down after a hard day at work? A glass of wine in either of our local pubs — one in England and one in Wales — or, on a warm evening under our gazebo, watching the sun
go down.

What does the future hold? I have hundreds of iris seedlings and many perennial seedling finds. I hope to be able to start introducing them soon.

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