Derek Fell was born September 28 1939 in Morecambe,a seaside resort on the north-east coast of England. At age 9 he moved to Findhorn, Scotland, where his father was appointed steward of the Royal Findhorn Yacht Club. At age 11 he moved to Wattan, Norfolk where his father re-entered the Royal Air Force. Then,at 13 years the family moved to Germany where he was educated at Prince Rupert School, Wilhelmshaven. At age 17 he moved to Bridgnorth, England where he began work as a trainee newspaper reporter, and then moved to the Newport Advertiser newspaper to complete his journalistic training. After two years he moved to London to work as assistant to O'D Gallagher, a former war correspondent who had established a public relations agency in Oxford Street. Derek worked as an account executive on several Gallagher clients, including Europe's oldest established seed house, Hurst Seeds. He considers Gallagher the greatest influence on his writing ability.
While working on the Hurst account Derek took responsibility of the Hurst seed catalog and developed a close friendship with the late Harry Smith, horticultural photographer. Impressed with Harry's work, Derek took up horticultural photography as a hobby, taking instruction from Harry.In 1964, after winning an award for Best Seed Catalog, Derek accepted an invitation to work with Burpee Seeds, in Philadelphia, USA, as their catalog manager, responsible to David Burpee, president. Newly married, to Maria Braksal, he and his bride moved to Pennsylvania and bought a house in Bucks County, close to Burpee's Fordhook Farm, and Derek's office. Derek accompanied Burpee on several overseas trips and learned a great deal about gardening from Burpee's 50 years experience as company CEO.
After the Burpee company was sold to General Foods corporation, Derek accepted an invitation (in 1970) to head the All-America Selections, the national seed trials, and also the National Garden Bureau, an information office established by the American seed industry. While he occupied this position he worked with the Nixon and Ford administrations as a garden consultant to the White House. He also established a relationship with Countryside Publications (Illinois)and HP Books (Arizona) to write garden-related books. His 'Vegetabes - How to Select, Grow and Enjoy' (HP Books) won a Best Book Award from the Garden Writers Association and sold 100,000 copies; his 'How to Photograph Flowers, Plants and Landscapes'(HP Books)also won a Best Book Award and sold 40,000 copies in its first edition, and another 25,000 copies when it was revised under a new title: 'Flower & Garden Photography' (Silver Pixel Press).
In 1970 Derek began building a horticultural color picture library and his first professional sales were to Encyclopedia Britannica. He also developed a close working relationship with Architectural Digest magazine and over the years contributed more than 50 garden features, many of which he authored. The assignments for Architectural Digest were world wide, including New Zealand, Hawaii, the Sub-antarctic, Morocco, Scotland, Wales, the Carribean, and all parts of the USA. Derek's exposure through Architectural Digest created a great deal of other freelance work, especially with US and UK book publishers. As interest in gardening increased he began authoring more books, focusing his interest on gardening, travel and art, using his own photography. Over the years he has authored more than 80 books and garden calendars, and received more awards from the Garden Writers Association than any other person.
Derek considers his best books focus on the gardens of the great French Impressonist painters, including Renoir, Monet, Cezanne and Van Gogh. As a result of the success of this series he was invited by the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation, Wisconsin to author a book titled 'The Gardens of Frank Lloyd Wright' (Frances Lincoln).
Derek's marriage to Maria ended in divorce, and he married several more times, to Rosemary Wilkins, Elizabeth Murray and finally to Carolyn Heath with whom he lives at their home, historic Cedaridge Farm, in Bucks County, Pennsylvania. He has three grown children: Christina, Derek Jr, and Victoria, and two grandsons, Owen and Nathan. Cedaridge Farm has served as an outdoor studio for more than 20 years, not only as a location for garden photography but also as a facility to test good gardening techniques and plant varieties so Derek can write authoritatively on the topic. He also owns an acre property on Sanibel Island, Florida to test tropical plants.
Derek currently enjoys a busy relationship with Rodale Books. His latest work for Rodale, 'Vertical Gardening' has experienced particularly good sales. Other recent works of which he is especially pleased include 'Magnolia Plantation & Gardens' (Gibbs Smith), 'Van Gogh's Women' (Carroll and Graf), 'The Great Gardens of New Zealand' (Bateman)and 'Campbell Island - Land of the Blue Sunflower' (Bateman).
About his career, Derek says: "I feel fortunate that I have had good mentors, and been able to combine writing with photography; but I always value good writing over good photography because good writing is more difficult and more satisfying."