Coquetdale Creative Folk: Jason Ridley has a passion for plants – especially cacti

An occasional series of portraits of Creative Coquetdale Folk by Katie Scott – this week, Jason Ridley, green-fingered proprietor of Sedumshack.

By Katie Scott
Wednesday, 8th April 2020, 2:19 am
Updated Wednesday, 8th April 2020, 2:21 am
Jason Ridley.
Jason Ridley.

I met Jason earlier this year, when I went to Thropton to buy some plants from him. He kindly showed me around his garden, which is full to bursting with sedums and succulents, in all sorts of weird and wonderful containers. I was after a lithop.

He showed me into his greenhouse, where all kinds of cacti were jostling for attention. He spoke so passionately and knowledgeably about his plants that I was entranced. I wanted to interview him, and he agreed. We made a date.

We met up recently and Jason told me he was born in 1971, in London. He tells me, “Horticulture has always been a huge part of my life, both in employment and as a personal passion – a watering can is never far away!”

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Plug plants, available from Jason Ridley's Sedumshack.

I asked him if he gardened as a child.

“It was my grandmother who got me into planting; potatoes, evergreens, vegetables. But I grew to be fascinated with cacti. I have had three collections in my life. This is thanks to my Grandma, who had money trees all over her windowsill, and little cacti. She had travelled the world and brought these plants back. I still have money trees that were grown from her original one.”

I ask him a bit more about this early love of plants. “Well, at aged 6 or 7 I joined the Young Gardeners’ Club. I was so thrilled at each edition of the magazine, and especially with the free seeds!”

Although they lived in Surrey, the family visited Scarborough a few times a year, to visit grandparents.

One of the unusual plants available at Jason Ridley's Sedumshack.

“The thrill of this to me was we got to call in at Thirsk White Stone Gardens, this is still the best cactus place in the world. I became a cactophile.”

Jason now sells the seeds of very rare cacti – spineless ones.

After studying business at De Montford University (“I wish I’d studied horticulture”) Jason worked in a variety of jobs; including computing, DJ’ing, health and safety advisor, and designer of chocolate packaging.

But he was delighted when he was able to purchase a nursery in Thirsk.

“It was exhilarating to own land, a great big dilapidated greenhouse, a wooden house, chickens, goats. It was ‘the good life’.”

This business did not last, however, but Jason had met his wife, Andrea (at salsa dancing), and they decided to sell everything and start a dry-scaping venture in Spain.

“We filled a truck with succulents and cacti, and off we went,” he said.

The business was initially a big success. They loved Spain, and their daughter Hannah was born there. When she was two, though, Jason and Andrea decided to return to England, and that was when they arrived in Northumberland, in 2010. Andrea has relatives nearby.

It is a creative family; Andrea makes fairy houses and ornaments, Hannah is a budding artist and musician, and Jason is amazing at propagating sedums, succulents and cacti. I am now addicted to sedum growing myself and thoroughly recommend Jason’s plants, which you can buy online.

You can read Jason’s blog, browse and purchase plants, at his website: https://sedumshack.co.uk/