Rachel feels she’s been on a journey – although she’s a bit reticent over her use of the word; she doesn’t like ‘journey’, she says, but it does help describe the way her understanding and approach to gardening has evolved.

Thoughtfully, she explains: ‘I’ve experienced a change in what I perceive to be important in my garden and what makes me want to be a gardener, and what I want to grow.’

She grew up with the idea that ‘the main focus was to make a garden that looks nice and pleases you. I remember my father spraying things and everything had to be absolutely healthy - and no holes in leaves.’

The normal gardening acceptance was that, ‘we had to dominate everything and grow what we want and where we wanted it’.

Attitudes have changed in recent years, something Rachel has witnessed in her visits to gardens across the country when filming for BBC Gardeners’ World.

‘We are now realising it’s about taking a different approach, in that, “I share this garden with all sorts of other creatures, some I am aware of and appreciate, some I don’t even see and some I don’t appreciate, but come anyway.”

‘As a gardener my eyes have been opened over the years to how important it is that we think of ourselves, not in a bubble, but in a holistic way, so that we are creating environments that in the long term are beneficial for wildlife.

‘I think we have come a long way, just in my gardening lifetime.’

Great British Life: Celebrate spring and gardening at Toby's Garden Festival. Celebrate spring and gardening at Toby's Garden Festival. (Image: Greenfinch)

In her new book, A Flower Garden for Pollinators, Rachel sets out to show how we can create a beautiful garden that welcomes wildlife.

‘People are still a little bit nervous that this means they have to have a very messy garden or only grow certain types of plants, or have a restricted palette.

‘I’m saying you can have a beautiful garden and it still be good for other creatures.’

Rachel was asked by her publisher to select about 80 plants for the book, which at first horrified her as, ‘I started with a shortlist of about 260!’

‘I had to keep editing and editing and I’d go to bed agonising and thinking, “I can’t leave that one out!” It was very difficult to make that final choice.’

Rachel’s love of gardening goes back to her childhood.

‘I’ve got three brothers, and it feels like in all weathers, in every season, we just seemed to be outside, whether that was making a den in the corner of the garden or playing weird games! My father was gardening often and was very, very keen and also we visited a lot of gardens and stately homes and did a lot of family walks around where I grew up. It often involved stopping and discussing somebody’s garden or looking at things or identifying things - and I also pressed leaves and flowers...

‘It all sounds very Enid Blyton! But I’m sure we squabbled and all the rest of it, but it really was a very happy experience and therefore I think I associate being in a garden and being with plants with feeling content.’

Great British Life: Lauren's foxglove, Digitalis purpurea, illustration from Rachel's book.Lauren's foxglove, Digitalis purpurea, illustration from Rachel's book. (Image: Lauren Lusk)

Encountering plants as a child led to ‘a fondness for them that hasn’t gone away’.

She’s carefully considering her words again. ‘I think gardeners have this lovely sort of... taking a long term view, which is fantastic, and very good for you.

‘So what you are doing, you are doing probably, at the earliest, for later in the year, and when you are planting a tree, you are planting for yourself and for your children, and their children, and so on, so there’s this lovely long slow burn.

‘I get very frustrated by that whole idea that instant gratification is the only thing worth having. If you can’t have it now, why would you persist? But for me, what I enjoy is the anticipation and that longer slow burn.’

‘And, I think that because you have sown something or planted something and you know it will start looking good in about 10 years, there is great incentive to get to that 10 year point.’

Rachel is vice president of the charity Plantlife, which she says was ‘ahead of the curve’ in highlighting the importance of wild flowers and that we have lost so many of their environments and are in danger of losing them, almost to the point of no return.

‘They were there before this more recent lean towards being aware of nature and its importance.

‘Now I feel much more that you are pushing at an open door because people are beginning to get that message and are genuinely wanting to change the way they garden, which is fantastic.

‘We have the power, collectively, to really make a significant difference. We can create gardens that are going to benefit pollinators so much, in significant numbers, and still have beautiful gardens for us to enjoy as well. The two things are completely compatible, it’s just planting the right thing.’

The book’s photographs were taken acclaimed garden photographer Jonathan Buckley. He spent many hours visiting Rachel’s garden throughout the seasons, taking time to capture those perfect moments.

Great British Life: Rachel and Lauren worked together on the book.Rachel and Lauren worked together on the book. (Image: Rachel de Thame)

‘To get the right bee coming out of the right flower he would set up the shot and wait and wait and wait there, until it got dark,’ she says.

‘To do anything well, it is worth putting in that time and taking your time over it, but it is very difficult when everything is so instant today with social media and so on. It’s quite difficult to balance.’

Alongside Jonathan’s photographs are illustrations by Rachel’s daughter Lauren Lusk. ‘It made doing the book even more special and it indulged our own passions. It was lovely that we could work on something so closely together.’

This will be the first time Rachel has been to Toby’s Garden Festival and it’s a visit she’s looking forward to.

‘I love Devon. I do know it quite well as my parents had a timeshare in Torquay. I have lovely memories of that.

‘It’s just so, so beautiful. My only difficulty is all the winding lanes which can make me feel a bit queasy!’

Both Devon and Cornwall have their own distinct atmosphere, which she appreciates, particularly the unspoiled coastlines and ‘that rich soil that I associate particularly with Devon. It’s almost like the richness that comes through in the cream and so on, it’s kind of in the land, it is fantastic stuff.

‘If it won’t grow in Devon, it probably won’t grow!’

Rachel is passionate about encouraging people to take up gardening.

‘I believe that what you put into a garden you get back many times over. It’s an extraordinary thing and I’m not quite sure why there is this very deep connection and this very strong need to grow things and to nuture things, but I think it really is part of the human character to feel that affinity with what we grow.

‘When news is challenging, and it seems to have been that way for some time now, it’s being able to sometimes focus on things that allow you a little bit of respite from worrying about whatever it is, whether it’s your own personal issues or things on a bigger scale. Gardening is so beneficial and it can be done so easily and, in many cases, for not a lot of money, and it just repays over and over and over.

‘It is so good for you, on every possible level: physical health, mental health, for your imagination, for your peace of mind, for feasting your eyes on beauty... for so many reasons; and then, obviously, for wildlife. I can’t think of anything else that really does all of that.’

A Flower Garden for Pollinators is published by Greenfinch, on April 25, £25

Great British Life: Celebrate spring and gardening at Toby's Garden Festival. Celebrate spring and gardening at Toby's Garden Festival. (Image: Louise Kear / Toby's Garden Festival)

A feast of a festival 

Toby’s Garden Festival, which takes place at Powderham Castle on Friday 3 and Saturday 4 May, is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year. 

The family-friendly extravaganza boasts an impressive programme full of free gardening and food and drink talks, demonstrations, tastings and workshops plus live music. 

The guests include Rachel, who is hosting talks on Saturday, and fellow Gardeners’ World presenter Sue Kent, who will be at the festival on Friday.  

Over 200 exhibitors include award-winning RHS Chelsea Flower Show plant nurseries and British-grown trees, roses, border and wild flowers, aquatics, shrubs and houseplants. There will be sculptures and garden furniture and man more local artists and makers, as well as workshops and demonstrations. 

There’s a food and drink market with stall, talks and demos, street food and special events to mark the anniversary. 

For those who want to make a special day of it, there’s also a VIP Experience, with all-day access to the castle’s library and music room with morning tea, coffee and biscuits, canapés and a light buffet lunch, afternoon tea, a glass of fizz and a VIP gift bag.