Women in Horticulture: AB Bishop

What drew you to horticulture originally? 

I was always drawn to the natural world, with my first memory of plants aged three in my English grandparents’ birch woodland filled with daffodils – I was entranced. As a kid, I collected nice rocks, sticks, pebbles and feathers and was always pulling apart flowers to see how they were made up. When I was 15 I started ‘rearranging’ our family gardens and grew my first plants (ivy in the bedroom and carnations outside). I didn’t realise that you could study plants/horticulture until many years later and the second I realised I signed up.

What pathway did you take to get there?

I had studied professional writing and editing at Holmesglen when I saw they had hort diplomas, so I moved straight into studying hort. I completed two diplomas (Production & Landscaping) in two years.

What obstacles did you encounter along the way?

I didn’t have any obstacles – in fact, it was like I was always meant to study hort because everything fell into place for me very quickly.

Who were your mentors?

I didn’t have any mentors, but used to watch Gardening Australia every week and, like everyone, loved Peter Cundall.

What are you working on at the moment?

My work as hort editor for GA mag keeps me pretty busy, and I’ve just finished another book, Naturescapes, co-authored by Phillip Withers. In terms of writing I’m currently working on a book about politics, and in terms of gardening projects, I’m continuing my struggle to reduce my to-do list but alas, it just keeps growing!

What does an average day consist of for you?

Wake up and realise that I have to do ‘it’ all again; feed Miss Demure & Sandy, our chooks; workout; GA work – lots of reading and checking, commissioning, writing briefs, writing stories, finding stories, etc; dinner & Netflix; bed!

What is your favourite plant?

Such a mean question. Let’s say Banksia marginata, because it’s indigenous to me and much loved by so many critters.

Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

Hopefully still GA hort editor, having helped take it in a new direction; and with at least three more books to my name.

What are your 3 most worthwhile tips that you can give to women who are starting out in the horticulture industry?

Always do what feels right for you, regardless if others think it’s a ‘bad idea’. Become competent in at least one other area as this increases your earning and life-enjoyment potential. This could be in a hort-complementary area, such as writing, photography, painting or something completely different. It can also be useful to specialise in a particular area, such as habitat, rock work, topiary, design, native plants, etc. You’ll become the go-to person. Don’t stop learning. Don’t accept bullying or condescending behaviour from men in the industry.

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