Andrew Turtill

Gardening Talent: Stewart Turtill – Learning the ropes at Audley End House and Gardens

As a trainee on English Heritage’s Historic and Botanic Garden Training Programme, Stewart is part of the team at Audley End House and Gardens. Portrait Andrew Montgomery.

First plant love My first plant love was Araucaria araucana. When I was 19, I was exploring Bodnant Gardens with friends when we came across one of these trees. One friend told me of her passion for collecting cones from conifers, and that she hadn’t got one from the monkey puzzle because they break down still attached to the tree. It then became my mission to collect an intact cone for her, and because of that I fell in love with this tree myself.

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Who has inspired your career the most? And why? Natalie Chivers and Rosie Kressman, who both work at Treborth Botanic Garden in Bangor, had a huge influence on the start of my career. Their passion and enthusiasm for the plants they grow and the garden they tend really inspired me. They really pushed me, giving me a paid internship, and gave me all the advice to get me where I am now when I had no clue how to start my career.

Most worthwhile tips for every gardener Always keep learning and never be disheartened when something goes wrong. Gardening is such a vast and ever-changing prospect that there will always be something you don’t know or a plant you haven’t heard of. Also, always try new methods of doing things; this can help if something does go wrong in the garden.

Favourite ‘weed’ you’re happy to have in your garden I know it’s controversial, but I like lawn weeds. I like seeing Trifolium repens and Bellis perennis coming up in the grass along with Ranunculus repens. I’m passionate about environmental conservation, which encourages this fondness for lawn weeds.

One easy thing that every gardener can do to be more sustainable in their gardening The best thing you can do in your garden is make your own compost. It’s a simple and easy thing to do. It may take a little bit of time to set it up and get your first batch, but once you’re there it’s the gift that keeps on giving.

What would you really like to achieve in your gardening career? I’m only at the start, so this is a very exciting time for me. I’d like to work towards becoming an ambassador for making large-scale professional gardening more sustainable and ecologically friendly, working with organisations such as the Seed Saving Network.

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Useful Information The Historic and Botanic Garden Training Programme offers a 12-month paid placement for gardeners in a UK-based historic or botanic garden. The next application slot opens in March 2022. To find out more visit hbgtp.org.uk