Perennial expert and author
Claire Austin is daughter of the legendary David Austin (the world-renowned rose grower), and grew up surrounded by flowers. A beautiful rose, with creamy white flowers and a strong myrrh scent, is named after her.
She grew perennials at David Austin Roses, her father’s nursery, for over 15 years before she started Claire Austin Hardy Plants, across the border in Wales in 1999. Here, Claire and husband, Ric, specialise in perennials such as peonies, irises, geraniums and delphiniums.
As you'd expect Claire's knowledge on all-things-perennial is second to none.
Your three favourite flowers?
peonies & irises (can I have 2 more please); Sanguisorbas & persicaria
Tell us about your childhood garden?
I had a patch of land in a field where I grew marigolds, Floribunda roses and multi-coloured Mesembryantemum
Who or what inspired your career choice?
Default, I couldn’t get a job in art, so started to work with my father on his nursery
What is a typical day in the life of Claire?
Ric (husband) and I walk up to the office/nursery, which is at the end of the drive. Back down to the house before 10am to feed the kunekune pig, Albert, and let out the 5 chickens. Then I either go to the office in the house, where its quiet, or back to the office where depending on the time of the year I do the catalogue, update the website or buy plants. I try walk around the stock beds and to do a bit in the garden each day (when it’s nice). We do work 8.30 to 5 all week and because we live and work at the same place the evenings are often spent visiting one of our favourite pubs to see life on the other side.
No garden is complete without …
Something we’d find:
On your bedside table: a pile of novels
In your flower arrangement: anything blooming in the garden
In your garden shed: a box full of labels, pencils and wire ready for the iris pollination season, which is in June. (Editors note: We did this interview earlier on in the year so the shed might be looking rather different now!)
The flaw you wish you didn’t have?
not taking life more easy!
What would you be in another life?
be nice to others and they’ll be nice to you & laugh!
Who is a horticultural hero?
What is the one flower or plant you’d never plant in your garden, but don’t detest when you see others plant it?
If there was a fire, and you could only keep one horticultural book, what would it be?
F. C. Stern’s ‘A Study of the Genus Paeonia’ - it was given to me by a customer because she thought I would appreciate it.
For posterity, what would you like your work to be known for?
The books I have written.
Quick fire: some favourite things
Book (fiction): the last book I read that I recommended to others is American Dirt
Painting: anything by local artist Sue Campion
Meal: any curry
Travel Destination: Florida (to see friends)
A cause near and dear to me: the air ambulance
Place to go for inspiration: East Africa
A great walk near where you live: up Pant Hill opposite our house
Thing to collect obsessively: plants
Museum: the V&A
Favourite person to follow on Instagram: Nigel Slater
Garden in the UK: Wollerton, Shropshire
Garden anywhere else: Fairchild Botanic Garden, Miami, USA
Image of Claire and garden : GAP/Clive Nichols