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Planting a Seed: Gardening as a Gateway to Nature

Errol Fernandes and Poppy Okotcha

Join us on the Barbican’s Conservatory Terrace, as a panel of gardeners, growers and horticulturists discuss gardening to connect with the natural world and finding belonging through planting.

Horticulturist and regenerative grower Poppy Okotcha, Head of Horticulture at the Horniman Museum and Gardens, Errol Rueben Fernandes and Marta Lowcewicz, Head Gardener at the Barbican Conservatory are in conversation with organic food grower and writer Claire Ratinon.


Claire Ratinon is an organic food grower and writer based in East Sussex.  After a chance encounter with a rooftop farm while living in New York City, Claire discovered her love for growing vegetables. She returned to London, where she left her career in TV documentary production, and has been pursuing her passion for plants ever since. Claire has grown organic vegetables for the Ottolenghi restaurant, Rovi; delivered workshops; given talks and has appeared on Radio 4's Gardeners' Question Time. Her new book, Unearthed, is the story of how author Claire found belonging through falling in love with growing plants.

Poppy Okotcha is a trained horticulturist and regenerative grower, on a mission to inspire people to engage with and connect to the natural world. With her joyful Instagram content, Poppy teaches people how to grow and forage their own food, whilst living and eating consciously - for personal, community and planetary health. As a young Black woman, Poppy also advocates for those who are underrepresented and marginalised in the world of horticulture and environmentalism.

Errol Rueben Fernandes is the Head of Horticulture at the Horniman Museum and Gardens where he manages the 16 acres of gardens. With a background in fine art, art psychotherapy and psychiatry, Errol's approach to landscape management, horticulture and design is creative, thoughtful and sensitive. Errol is particularly interested in ecological and sustainable horticulture and develops planting schemes that sit comfortably alongside nature and have a low impact on the environment, but also push the boundaries of contemporary horticulture and design practice. Working with communities, sharing knowledge, nurturing collaborative working practices and inspiring the next generation of horticulturalists are principles that are central to his work.

Marta Lowcewicz is Head Gardener at the Barbican Conservatory, London's second largest conservatory, with over 1,800 species of plants and trees.

Conservatory Terrace