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Gardens and Outdoor Living

Taking Tea with Raymond Hubbard, Nurseryman and Innovator

“Years ago, of course, everyone gardened organically because there simply weren't any pesticides for people to use. Gardeners relied on natural predators and ago-old methods passed down from generation to generation, head gardener to apprentice, to keep their plants healthy and free from infestation - and if they did have problems, they turned to their friends, the 'good bugs' to sort it out!”

We all know Lacewings and Ladybirds are invaluable in the garden, and a healthy worm population equals finer soil but can we really keep our plants in tip-top condition without harmful chemicals – and is it possible for commercial growers to do the same?

The answer is an emphatic Yes from the nurseryman who was instrumental in pioneering the reintroduction and use of such methods nearly half a century ago and the results are there for

all to see today at stunning Hill House Garden and Nursery.

Enjoying afternoon tea (complete with amazing homemade cakes) in the delightful tea rooms there, listening to Raymond's quest to encourage the gardeners of today not to poison the gardens of tomorrow was enthralling.

Chemical pesticides were hailed as a great step forward when the first product, DDT, became available at the end of WW11 but the long term consequences of their use only became apparent years later, by which time irreparable damage had been done. Pesticides, especially those which are sprayed or watered-in, do not stay only where they are put! DDT traces have been found in the livers of penguins who have never left the Antarctic, let alone inhabited an English garden.

“If you adopt naturally good

practices in your gardening, they can be just as effective whether you are tending a small domestic garden or managing our huge hothouses but you cannot control what is happening round you. We are fortunate to be surrounded by agricultural land, all of which is farmed organically, but the best advice I could suggest when considering buying a house is 'look at your neighbour's garden'!”

When Raymond first investigated the use of biological predators, much of his work was by his own admission, trial and error but before long his 'parasitised' control leaves were proving to be effective when introduced to both infested and healthy plants. Soon in great demand by growers across the world, requests were arriving by fax from far-flung countries, including those with whom we did not enjoy such good relations then as we do today. There have been a few awkward moments with both Customs Officials overseas and intelligence authorities in this country!

It may sound an unusual concept - making natural parasites work for you – but that is the essence of Raymond's work. Starting with

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