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Susie White – my life in gardens

Colin Adsley
By Colin Adsley
10th May 2020

Susie is a writer, lecturer and photographer who has a lifetime’s gardening experience, authoring eight gardening books and having her work regularly featured in the press and on television.

For 23 years she ran Chesters Walled Garden, near Chollerford in Northumberland, with its nationally important collection of herbs, leaving after 22 years to create a new garden for her own Northumbrian home. She now uses this cottage garden as the basis for many of her articles, including The Guardian’s Country Diary. It is a place in tune with the surrounding landscape, where Susie has evolved a distinctive, natural style of planting.

We were delighted, therefore, when she offered as a member of CPRE to give a talk on our behalf about her life’s work, and we booked Corbridge Parish Hall for an evening in July, 2019.

Susie’s talk covered experiences throughout her life from early childhood up to the present day, and was illustrated by a stunning selection of beautiful images from her extensive library. We heard about Christopher Lloyd at Great Dixter where Susie studied for a while, and of the key principles she absorbed from other celebrated gardeners. She then went on to explain how she developed her famous herb garden at Chesters near Chollerford, which was filmed for television some 30 times over the 22 years she ran it. She spoke generously about other gardens, too, with particular praise for the Lawley’s garden at Herterton House (2 miles north of Wallington), an unmissable classic in her view.

As she spoke, insights about gardening – and the way her life has been shaped around it – were deepened by themes of concern for our countryside and her intense love of wild life and the natural world. Most of all her talk was shot through with a real sense of joy in the rewards she has gained – from plants, from the creative work of gardening, from the pleasures of physical labour even. For over an hour she held a hall-full of people enthralled by the clarity and warmth of her words in a truly inspirational talk.

This talk gave us all an an enriching and unforgettable experience, and the team at CPRE Northumberland are immensely grateful to Susie for her unfailinging support for our work.

Susie White