When Life Gives You Lemons: A roundabout story of how Huxley Jones Designs began

Me in the AmazonWhen 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 faithful 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 by 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 customers. 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 swamp.

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4 thoughts on “When Life Gives You Lemons: A roundabout story of how Huxley Jones Designs began

  1. This post is so inspiring – even to a middle-aged lady! It’s great that you haven’t let setbacks get you down. I wish Huxley Jones Designs much success.

    1. Thank you so much Lizzie. And thank you for reading. Yep, set backs keep coming don’t they! Especially in 2020!

  2. Brilliant! It all sounds very exciting too! Love the photo – it shouts ‘adventure’ to me!

    1. It was a real adventure! Feels like a lifetime ago now but I love the memories!

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