Love Your Garden episode eight: Zootopia!

Love Your Garden episode eight: Zootopia!

This week we are making over the keepers’ picnic space at the zoo. Our main recipient was John-Paul ‘JP’ Houston, the most dedicated and inspirational zookeeper you will ever meet.  

Katie Rusworth of Love Your Garden with an orangutan at the zoo

I got to feed this huge, 18-year-old male orangutan. It was amazing!

JP lives and breathes animal conservation. He is so dedicated to his work that he lives at the zoo – and that means that he is never truly off duty. He is often up late feeding the elephant, Katie (no relation!), or nursing young hatchlings through the night. On the rare occasions that JP does have time off,  it is nearly always spent on conservation trips or raising money for conservation. Last year alone, he and his team raised £150,000 for conservation charities. JP is currently training to climb Mount Everest for Save the Rhino. He also visits local colleges for free to spread the message of the importance of nature conservation.  

Designs from the keeper's compound in episode seven, season six of Love Your GardenJP also loves gardening and LOVES Love Your Garden. He is a really lovely, generous guy who, when Alan surprised him, immediately asked that the space we’d identified be made over for all the keepers, even though JP is the only one who lives here. That’s because the keepers are a really close knit family. He also asked that we build a garden that helps the animals in the zoo and that includes some sort of effort for conservation.  

JP is now assistant head keeper at the zoo, but he started at Blackpool Zoo 6 years ago as head of birds. In that time he has seen great successes – and many of the animals (particularly birds) he’s raised will pick him out from the crowd as he walks around the zoo.  


Our garden was split into zones – daytime eating, covered bar, evening firepit, quiet retreat for contemplation and escape, fun and games, quick resting/meeting spot – that makes six, and there are seven continents. Given that nothing grows in Antarctica, we each got a continental zone on which to theme our section of the garden.  

Here are some behind-the-scenes snaps from this episode! Thanks for joining us this time around, I hope you’ve enjoyed it as much as me and the rest of the team have. What a blast!

We call sound man Lloyd ‘the storm bringer’, as every shoot he’s on, it rains!

I loved Frances’ stencilled wall – it looked fab!

Isn’t it amazing how a lick of paint can transform a stack of old pallets into a bar!

These circular archways are great for creating ‘zones’ within a garden.

A pagoda to shelter from the rain – no doubt the keepers will get to use it as well as us!

A fire pit for chilling around!