In keeping with its name, Pimpernel Press has put down its roots in an unassuming Victorian house hidden at the end of a pleasant street off West London’s Harrow Road. The only hint that a publisher is in residence is the pile of tempting-looking books glimpsed from the front doorstep through the ground-floor bay window. Pimpernel’s publisher, Jo Christian, squeezes past me in the narrow hall to usher me into her combined office and living-room, where a long table is covered with a comfortable clutter of laptop, proofs, interesting objects and framed photographs. Beneath a wall thick with prints and paintings a pair of life-sized Coade stone greyhounds – refugees perhaps from some great house or garden – stand next to a large old sofa covered in piles of books. We’re clearly a long way here from the world of corporate publishing.
That was the world Jo and her business partner, Gail Lynch, were escaping when they set up Pimpernel Press in 2013, following the sale to a conglomerate of the independent publisher where they both worked. During her thirty years as a commissioning editor, one of Jo’s special interests had been books on gardens and gardening, and a number of her authors who fancied dealing with this new corporate world as little as she did had come to her with their projects. The decisive moment arrived when Fergus Garrett, Head Gardener at Great Dixter, the late Christopher Lloyd’s famous garden, remarked that he was ready to produce the book Jo had been asking him to write for years. ‘I said to Gail, what am I going to do with this?’ says Jo, ‘and she said, “Well, the old-fashioned thing to do would be to publish it.”’
So, with some initial financial backing from friends they struck out on their own and signed Fergus up. (He hasn’t written his book yet, Jo confides – high-profile head gardeners are busy people these days, travelling the world lecturing and consulting and trying to write their books on planes.) Bu
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