When Life Gives You Lemons: A roundabout story of how Huxley Jones Designs began
When the giant UCAS book was put in front of me aged seventeen I chose
something I thought would combine my love of drawing and the outdoors, and so
set about a career in Landscape Architecture. After gaining a degree in
Landscape Architecture and Ecology I went on to work for designers in Vancouver
and London. My best time was had working for a garden designer in Chelsea,
designing and project managing high end gardens for all those fancy folk,
including a gold medal winning garden at Chelsea Flower Show. It was a
whirlwind romance as in 2008 I was made redundant during the economic downturn.
A devastating blow that made me stop and take stock of my life at a fairly
fresh 28 years old!
I had always felt a little unfulfilled in my career, hand drawn work was slowly
becoming a thing of the past in favour of digital imaging, and much of my day
was spent at a computer locked away from the great outdoors. I went back to the
drawing board and decided to retrain as a horticulturist with the idea of one
day becoming a Head Gardener. I studied the RHS certificates part time while
working on a stall in borough market to fund my studies and volunteering at the
Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. It was HARD work but I eventually got my basic
training and to my absolute delight was accepted onto the Horticultural
Apprenticeship at Kew.
Kew was an amazing experience, I specialised in tropical and temperate flora
gaining loads of inspiration for my drawing as I went and gaining horticultural
experience in an unparalleled learning environment. If you visit the renovated
Temperate House now, some of those plants are from cuttings that I took and
grew (I hope!).
During my time there I was lucky enough to gain a scholarship to work in the
gardens of the Palace of Monserrate, Portugal, and even more exciting (!) a
scholarship to explore the Ecuadorian Amazon and Cloud Forests. The picture
above is of me, sweat patches and all, deep in the Amazon rainforest wading
through (what I later found out to be) a Caiman infested swamp! Eeek!
I grinned from ear to ear like this for the whole trip. To anyone that’s not
into plants, the Amazon is to me like a front row ticket to the Emmy awards
would be to a celebrity obsessed 16 year old. It was literally dripping with
plants that I’d only ever seen growing in pots in the Tropical Nursery, or in
the magnificent Palm House of Kew. Every turn lead to another species spot, I
was in my element.
Back down to earth! On graduation I left London to live with my now husband
in North Wales (not quite so exotic!). A Head Gardener himself, we lived and
worked on a rural estate
and I set up my own garden maintenance business. Luck was not on my side
however, as when our first child was 18 months old I had an accident and broke
my ankle. Unfortunately it was not a simple fix and one very bleak day my
consultant told me bluntly, gardening is not going
to be the career for you, find something else. Gulp.
By this point I had already set up Huxley Jones Designs (named after my
companion Huxley the Scottie Dog, and my maiden name; Jones). My collection was
very small and it was more of a hobby than a ‘job’. After a good bit of wallowing
I brushed myself off, and picked up my pen. Drawing gives me total inner piece,
and so I healed my broken heart
while making a bit of pocket money on the side, adding to my collection little
My main focus (outside our two small children) is now Huxley Jones Designs,
but I fulfil my plant bug by working part time at a rare plant nursery for a
man who travels the globe collecting rare and wonderful plants. I get my
inspiration from all the things around me that I enjoy, from fury friends, to
the great outdoors, to my adventures with my two daughters. I get such a great
sense of satisfaction from creating new designs and illustrations for my
Life can take you on many ups and downs, and I often wonder where I would be
now had I chosen a different page from that UCAS book. I hope to make my small
business into something my girls can be proud of one day, but most importantly
I hope to teach them that
when life gives you lemons, which it inevitably will, pick yourself up, and
make some sweet lemonade.
And also, go to the Amazon, but never ever wade through a Caiman infested
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