The Questions - Mark Straver

I am writing this just as RHS Chelsea Flower Show gets ready to open.  I always enjoy this show, which for me is one of the highlights of the gardening year.  I love seeing the show gardens and like many gardeners I spend a lot of time looking at which plants  are used and how they are used.  Mark Straver is the CEO of Hortus Loci, regular readers will recall that I have recently been there and it is a happy coincidence that I have been able to ask Mark if he would like to take part in my series of blog posts where I ask all who take part the same set of questions.
Hortus Loci sources and supplies wholesale plants from all over the world.  As I write this they have supplied over 40,000 plants to a variety of show gardens and displays at RHS Chelsea Flower Show.  Show Gardens they are involved with at this year's Chelsea Flower Show include 'The Welcome to Yorkshire Garden' and the Tom Dixon in collaboration with IKEA, 'Gardening will save the world' garden and also RHS Bridgewater Garden

The Questions 

In which garden do you feel happiest?
When I was a little boy my parents took me to Savill Garden pretty much every week. As a keen fisherman, I loved it as there’s a big lake and then you have the wonderful gardens. There’s even a totem pole!

If you could only have five garden-related tools, which would they be?
A Tina cuttings knife, my Niwaki secateurs, a spade, fork and a shovel for when it snows.

If you could only have five garden-related books, which would they be?

Hilliers Manual of Trees & Shrubs; Ulf Nordfjell’s latest book; Marina Christopher’s Late Summer Flowers; the RHS A-Z Encyclopaedia of Garden Plants; and Nurserymen to the World: Nursery Gardens of Woking and North-West Surrey – my grandfather owned Roseland Nurseries which he started in 1933, it became one of the biggest tree nurseries in the UK, and he’s mentioned in the book.
What was the most defining moment in your life so far?

Setting up my own business when I was 19, it was a little retail plant centre in Chobham. I had worked with my Dad up until then.
What are you most proud of?

The first year we set up Hortus Loci and I was responsible for the plants in four Main Avenue gardens at RHS Chelsea, and two with Crocus, and we had the shortest run-up we’ve ever had. The results – five golds, one silver gilt, best in show and the People’s Choice award.
If you won the lottery, what would you do?

It would always be about plants. I’d just carry on but with a much bigger smile on my face and go fishing more often!
Who are your garden heroes (no more than three)?

Jinny Blom as she’s been a very good friend for a long time. Tom Stuart-Smith because he was the first major designer I did the plant buying for. And then Hugo Bugg as I’ve known him since he started out. He won Young Designer at RHS Tatton Park and then did Main Avenue at RHS Chelsea. We’ve been on quite a journey with him.
What skill would you like to learn and why? (does not have to be garden related).
I would love to learn more languages. I spend a lot of time abroad and I wish I was multilingual.

If you could visit any garden right this minute, which one would it be?
It wouldn’t be a garden but a spot on the River Exe called Straver’s Pot which is actually named after my Dad (he caught five salmon in one day there). It’s a beautiful part of the river, everything around is a completely natural landscape.
What is your current plant obsession?

After all these years of perennials there is a massive turn back to shrubs, so it has to be Magnolias and Cornus kousa. Whenever I go on my travels, I will buy them if I see particularly nice specimens.
Which garden tool is never far from your hand?

What is your favourite gardening/plant related word?

Has to be Hortus!
What do you wish you could do better?

Creating more down time as I’m rubbish at that. I work too much.
What is the most important lesson you have learned so far?

I’ve become far more aware of environmental issues. We hosted a Vegan Garden Festival at Hortus recently and it really made me think. Having always worked with nature, I realise we are nothing in comparison. Nature is the boss and we should never forget that.
What makes a perfect day for you?

No phone, salmon fishing with great company and a BBQ with some pork pies.
If you had one piece of advice to offer to someone what would it be?

Always do your best. There is no such thing as making a fast buck. Work hard.
Gnome or no gnome?
I hate them, I find them creepy!

With grateful thanks to Mark for taking part and to Emma Mason PR

More responders to the The Questions can be found here.