Early garden memory I have fond memories of burning leaves with my grandad at the bottom of his garden.
What was your first career? I spent about 15 years working in the television industry. I was getting fed up with working weekends and overnight shifts and sitting in dark studios, so I started to think about a career change. After falling in love with my allotment, I started volunteering at my nearest National Trust garden and it was there that I heard about the NT Careership programme.
Horticultural heroes In a way, the volunteers here at Polesden Lacey. Without them the garden would be a jungle. We have volunteer teams in the veg garden, the cut flower garden, the formal gardens, the pleasure grounds and teams who mend benches, fix fences and build cold frames. We have volunteers who give garden tours, look after our chickens, write plant labels and everything else in between.
Worthwhile tip for every gardener Mulch, mulch and mulch! Not only does it greatly improve the aesthetics of a border, organic mulch also suppresses weeds, retains moisture, improves soil structure, encourages worm activity and protects roots from frost.
Least favourite plant I’ve never been a fan of Alchemilla mollis. It’s quite thuggish and needs regular attention in terms of cutting back to get the best from it. Imagine my delight when I discovered Alchemilla erythropoda, a much neater, more delicate version of lady’s mantle, and planted it here at Polesden Lacey.
Unsung hero of the plant world I love the sight of a lawn studded with daisies. It evokes such a bucolic, natural scene. Daisies are also great for attracting pollinating insects to the garden and the birds that predate on them. Not many people know that daisies can be used to make an infusion or that the leaves are edible and high in vitamin C.
Guiding principles You need to realise that you’ll never know everything and one of the joys of working in horticulture is that you’ll learn something new almost every day.
Your next big project in the garden We plan to restore the old kitchen garden, create a winter walk to connect the Rock Garden to our historic Winter Garden, restore the garden’s historic views – and more.
Favourite gardening books When I first became a head gardener, I found English Heritage’s The Management and Maintenance of Historic Parks, Gardens and Landscapes by John Watkins and Tom Wright a fantastic resource for everything from historic research and visitor flow to glasshouse restoration and orchard management. It’s currently out of print but a more accessible version of this sort of book is At West Dean by Jim Buckland and Sarah Wain (White Lion Publishing, 2018).