Meet the experts
Joe Swift: Presenter
Joe Swift is an English garden designer, journalist and television personality.
Joe is a father, a lifelong Arsenal fan, and surprisingly a keen but very average golfer
After leaving school Joe went to art college and played bass in a band. He then travelled and worked abroad and upon his return started landscaping in north London. He subsequently lived in Australia for a year landscaping in Sydney and Melbourne.
He then studied garden design at The English Gardening School based at the Chelsea Physic Garden in 1990 whilst simultaneously setting up a landscaping company.
Joe started presenting Gardeners World in 1998 and now designs gardens, presents on TV and writes. Joe is a father, a lifelong Arsenal fan, and surprisingly a keen but very average golfer. He is involved in various charities.
In 2009, Swift presented coverage of the Hampton Court Palace Flower Show for the BBC. He was also one of the main presenters of the BBC coverage of the 2010 RHS Chelsea Flower Show. His writing also includes Gardeners World magazine, various magazine and newspaper articles, and books.
Joe doesn’t have a favourite plant but he loves most euphorbias! He also adores ornamental garden trees that reflect each season such as sorbus and crab apples and solid evergreen structural plants to help give the garden a graphic edge. He dislikes too much bare earth on show, boring ‘all lawn and no plant’ gardens and gardens where all the plants are way below eye level and you’re forced to look down.
Ann-Marie Powell: Judge
Ann-Marie Powell is an award-winning garden designer, TV gardening presenter, journalist and author, who divides her time between designing amazing gardens for private clients, companies and charities, and enthusing people about gardening through her books, TV appearances and articles in national newspapers and magazines.
I just like gardens that look lived in and take their lead from nature. I like using plants that are native and grow naturally in the environments they're supposed to grow in
Ann-Marie started her innovative, energetic garden design practice in 1999, and has built an impressive portfolio of gardens designed to combine the best of contemporary design with innovative use of materials in a naturalist style.
Her portfolio includes private and commercial gardens (including Grade 1 and 2 listed), roof terraces, school gardens and grounds, show gardens, community gardens and development projects. Ann-Marie designs all her gardens in her own studio near the west Sussex/Hampshire border, and is constantly inspired by the view of the surrounding hills and the changing seasons as seen from her first storey window.
Her favourite type of garden is “reclaimed messy meadow”, “I just like gardens that look lived in and take their lead from nature. I like using plants that are native and grow naturally in the environments they're supposed to grow in”. Her favourite plant is hemerocallis, or daylilies.
Her hero is Thomas Church “because, as he always said, gardens are for people."
James Alexander-Sinclair: Judge
James is a RHS gardens’ Judge and a member of the Council of the Royal Horticultural Society.
I like the plants to be able to stretch their limbs and do their own thing, but there comes a point when I have to step in and say ‘No’ in a very loud voice
After a mildly feckless youth James began as a landscape contractor - getting by mostly on bluff and endeavour - in London before moving to Northamptonshire to build a house in 1992. Since then he has designed gardens, both large and small, all over the place from the south of France to the Western Isles of Scotland. He has designed show gardens at both the RHS Chelsea Flower Show and the Westonbirt International Festival of the Garden.
In his spare time he has written articles for many publications and was a Finalist for Garden Journalist of the Year 2010. He has also won the Garden Media Guild ‘Blog of the Year’ award three times. James has also presented television programmes on both the BBC and Channel 4, including coverage of the Chelsea Flower Show.
He describes his gardening style as disciplined anarchy. “I like the plants to be able to stretch their limbs and do their own thing, but there comes a point when I have to step in and say ‘No’ in a very loud voice”. His favourite London garden is the September 11th memorial garden in Grosvenor Square.
His favourite garden tool is his secateurs. In the garden, he really likes weeding and he listens to strange historical podcasts on his headphones. He also loves pruning roses.