It was just one short film sent in to BBC’s Gardeners’ World during lockdown that led to a new career as a TV presenter for Sue Kent.

Sue was one of hundreds of viewers who responded to an appeal to send in videos of their gardens during this unusual time, when everyone was confined to their homes. One or two of these video clips, which lasted just a few minutes, were aired during the weekly show.

The engaging way Sue showed viewers her garden and her positive and encouraging outlook was an immediate hit.

Sue was born with an upper limb disability caused by the drug Thalidomide which was prescribed to her mother during pregnancy and so she gardens using her hands and also her feet.

Sue, who was working as a massage therapist, had adapted her garden of 35 years at her home in Wales, near the Mumbles on the Gower, to work with her disability.

Gardening was ‘a hobby,’ she says. ‘I wasn’t a gardener when I came here, but I come from gardening stock, and a couple of great friends were gardeners and so gradually, I learned on the job.’

She has changed her large garden and allotment, over the years, as she says, ‘I’m beginning to outlive the trees now!’.

Sue’s gift has been to show people that gardening is possible with physical limitations and she is now an RHS ambassador for disability inclusivity. She’s often called upon to give talks on accessible gardening; she contributes to Gardeners’ World magazine and she is a regular presenter on the programme.

All this started from her little film.

When she sent it in the programme makers got in touch to say it was done well and that they may come back to her about doing another film. But the viewers’ positive response was immediate and, ‘they phoned me within two minutes to say they were coming!’ she says.

She adds, ‘It’s really weird in a way... because I had a funny feeling about it. I felt I had something to offer. So, I was excited, but I wasn’t surprised.’

As well as appearing on television, Sue went on to create a show garden for the RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show in 2022, winning a Silver Gilt medal.

She has appeared several times on Gardeners’ World with Toby Buckland and is a guest at his festival at Powderham Castle this month.

‘Toby has really helped me, he’s been to my allotment and physically helped me with my garden and we’ve done a few shows together.

‘When I was doing my show garden I had no experience so the BBC put me in touch with Toby and he guided me and was really supportive.

‘He is lovely, he’s happy, he’s funny and positive and kind. You see a fellow happy scale person, and it’s nice, we just gelled straight away.’

Sue is familiar with the South West, one of her favourite places is Bude, and she and her husband regularly holiday hear Dartmouth.

‘I love Devon and I’ve stayed in various places. We used to go to a little bed and breakfast near Ivybridge and we’d go to Burgh Island. We stayed there for our tenth wedding anniversary.’

Sue always holidays in the UK, avoiding flying in part for environmental reasons, but also because she was diagnosed with Meniere’s disease in 2017. It affects her balance and ‘travelling in a plane is not so great,’ she says. ‘I tried a ferry and the confines of the ship also affected it.’

READ MORE: Gardening for pollinators and wildlife with Rachel de Thame

‘Meniere’s threw me for six. I lost my hearing in my left ear and a bit of sight.’

Despite this, Sue remains an extraordinarily happy person, a positive person. As she says, ‘I now chillout and do what I can do and adjust.’

‘You never know what you are going to face,’ she adds. ‘We have our trials and tribulations and you have to accept they are going to come through in life. My father’s always said, pull yourself together and get on with it. There’s not a lot we can do about what’s going on. So, I am a very jolly person.’

Sue admits she avoids listening to the news in order to remain stress free. ‘I’ll ask my husband if there’s anything I should know in particular... I try not to watch anything stressful or gloomy.

‘I keep in a bubble of happy happy love love!’

Gardening keeps her fit and nurtures her desire for creativity. She describes it as, ‘fleetingly creative’, something you don’t have total control over but, ‘If you cock it up – there's always another year!’

Her Gardeners World work enabled her to refocus, she says. Despite the overwhelmingly positive rection, she’s had some difficulties. ‘Some will say I’m a token tick box... but you have to be tough enough to not bother about the negatives.’

Instead, she turns her mind to ‘being generous and sharing’.

Sue wants to enable people to think about the future in a positive way and open their minds to creative possibilities

‘Being positive, is my thing’, she says.

Great British Life: Sue Kent Garden NotesSue Kent Garden Notes (Image: Sue Kent)


Sue will be bringing her positive approach to gardening, along with plenty of ideas to make gardening a little easier, on the Friday of Toby’s Garden Festival.

She will also be signing copies of her book, Garden Notes, which was published last year. It’s a revised copy of a one-off book Sue made for herself, and which she uses to record all her gardening needs. It includes useful information and advice as well as space for individual notes and plans.

Toby’s Garden Festival takes place over two days, Friday, May 3 and Saturday May 4. It includes talks and demonstrations as well as a host of exhibitors’ plant stalls, artisan crafts, and the chance to meet the makers and sample some of the county’s finest food and drink.

It’s the tenth anniversary year of the event which is now one of just a few festivals worldwide and the first garden show in the world to earn carbon neutral status.

To celebrate this achievement Toby and Paul Jupp of Meadow in my Garden have launched The Pocket Meadow Project. Throughout the festival, free wildlife-friendly seed packets with enough kernels to create a miniature square yard meadow in pots or garden soil will be given away to visitors.