Scholar, writer, and TV and radio presenter, Advolly Richmond, lives in Shropshire. She has an MA in Garden History from the University of Bristol, and is qualified to RHS Level 3 in Practical Horticulture. Advolly is passionate about garden history and her enthusiasm for her subject is infectious, and reflected in her writing, podcasts, teaching, and radio and television presenting.
She is a trustee of the Welsh Historic Gardens Trust and the Castle Bromwich Hall Gardens Trust, as well as being an ambassador for Silent Space.
Your three favourite flowers?
Roses, Veratrums and Auriculas
Tell us about your childhood garden?
We lived in one of several detached bungalows which had been built in part of an orchard so there was a lot grass and apple trees.
Who or what inspired your career choice?
I was inspired to look more closely at plants in secondary school by our Rural Studies teacher Mr Cheyne, who I reunited with in 2022 before he sadly passed away a month ago. In my late 30s I decided to change career. I completed my RHS courses and it was during this time that one of my lecturers Harry Delaney encouraged me to pursue garden history and inadvertently the history of plants too. I devoured A Social History of Gardens by Charles Quest-Ritson not long after and I was completely hooked on gardens and their histories. While studying for my MA in Garden History I fell in love with the gardens of the Italian renaissance which inspire my lectures and teaching.
What is a typical day in the life of Advolly?
Cup of tea in bed and a bash at the Wordle which I manage to do reasonably well at. Although I did recently lose a 73-day streak and vowed never to do it again … until the next day! I might do some reading with a coffee before getting up. If I am in full writing mode, which I am at the moment I grab a slice of toast and coffee and have a mooch round the garden before making myself a flask of coffee. This comes upstairs with me to my study along with my beautiful little floral Pip Studio mug. I have a large desk which is always covered in research notebooks, piles or as my husband calls them, fortifications of books on historic gardens, social history and of course stories about plants and places and people. If my husband is downstairs working from home we meet up for a light lunch and I am backupstairs until about 7pm.
No garden is complete without …
Water and a small seating area.
Something we’d find:
• On your bedside table: Books, post it notes and too many pens
• In your flower arrangement:
Depending on the time of year, winter for example – twigs of Chimonanthus praecox, Clematis cirrhosa, a variety of Snowdrops, leaves or berries of Hedera helix, Chaenomeles japonica, Edgeworthia chrysantha, viburnums. The combined scent is just sublime.
• In your garden shed: A mess!
The flaw you wish you didn’t have?
I can be a bit unforgiving.
What would you be in another life?
A 17 th century Italian noblewoman with a gorgeous little villa and a luxurious giardino segreto or secret garden full of the most recently introduced plants from around the world.
''Do unto others as you would have them do unto you''
Who is a horticultural and/or botanical hero?
John Parkinson and John Gerard
What is the one flower or plant you’d never plant in your garden, but don’t detest when you see others plant it?
Wallflowers (Erysimum cheiri)
If there was a fire, and you could only keep one book on gardens, what would it be?
Oxford Companion to the Garden (1991)
For posterity, what would you like your work to be known for?
For being informative, amusing and arousing people’s curiosity in a range of subjects that they
would not have done otherwise.
Quick fire: some favourite things
• Book (fiction): Bridges of Madison County by Robert James Waller
• Film: My Fair Lady with Audrey Hepburn
• Painting: The Swing by Jean Honore Fragonard
• Smell: Edgeworthia chrysantha
• Meal: Grilled T bone steak (from our local butcher), good French fries, a green salad and a good bouncy red wine. OR a classic salad niçoise but definitely the steak
• Travel Destination: Lisbon
• A cause near and dear to me: The charity Village Water based in Shrewsbury
• Place to go for inspiration: My Garden
• A great walk near where you live: Our local park The Quarry
• Thing to collect obsessively: Books
• Museum: The Victoria and Albert Museum
• Favourite person to follow on Instagram: @johnmgrimshaw
• Garden in the UK: Gravetye Manor, Sussex
• Garden anywhere else: The Gardens at the National Palace of Queluz, Lisbon.