Tom Bream: 'I started with a healthy interest in worms and mud'
Encouraged by his grandfather to follow a career in horticulture, Tom Bream is now head gardener at a Berkshire estate. Portrait Andrew Montgomery
Earliest gardening memory My parent’s allotment was where a healthy interest in worms and mud sowed the seeds for a passion for horticulture. I grew up feeling that being outdoors all year round was the only way to be.
First plant love The oak trees in the woodland near to where I grew up were the perfect natural adventure playground. Building treehouses in them allowed me to develop a real kinship with nature.
Who has inspired your career the most? My grandad on discovering I’d left university to pursue an apprenticeship in horticulture was incredibly supportive and wrote me a letter saying ‘I’m sure we’ll see you working with Kew or the RHS one day’. I’ll always remember the encouragement that this gave me.
There’s no substitute for working alongside experienced gardeners
Horticultural heroes Roy Lancaster gave a fantastic speech at my RHS Wisley Diploma graduation, which really reinforced the importance of being in touch with the plants around us. He explained how weeding could become a memory exercise for any budding horticulturist if you learn the botanical name of every weed pulled.
Most valuable training It was a privilege to benefit from the diversity of skill and knowledge that RHS Wisley offered as part of the Wisley Diploma in Practical Horticulture. But while my formal training has given me a great basis of knowledge, there’s no substitute for working alongside experienced gardeners.
Worthwhile tip Plants die – don’t be afraid to try things again if they don’t work out the first time.
Dream plant destination I fulfilled a dream of seeing giant and coastal redwoods in California last year and my expectations of their grandeur were greatly surpassed. It’s impossible to imagine the difference in scale until they’re seen up close.
One easy thing that every gardener can do to be more sustainable in their gardening Question everything. Some things really are only done for the sake of tradition. If you don’t use your lawn, do you need it?
Favourite gardening books I’m more likely to get lost in a new catalogue for gardening tools than anything else.
What’s the next big project in the garden? The garden where I work is very varied. I’m currently working to naturalise a meadow and large area of bulbs, creating a parkland and planting more trees. A solid day clearing duckweed from our pond is always something to look forward to. It can be disheartening when it seems to regrow as quickly as it is removed but perseverance pays off.
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