Gardens Illustrated

Gardening Talent – Lachlan Rae, senior gardener at Gresgarth Hall

Published: October 28, 2021 at 9:47 am

Lachlan is senior gardener at Gresgarth Hall in Lancashire – the private garden of landscape designer Arabella Lennox-Boyd – where he is responsible for maintaining and developing the garden’s vast collection of trees and shrubs. Portrait Andrew Montgomery

First plant love An enormous horse chestnut tree in the driveway of my childhood home. My elder brother and I would use the nuts for playing conkers. When I was around seven or eight, we managed to get some of them to grow.

How did your horticultural career start? I left school when I was 17 with little employment prospects. I had two options to pursue; either the Bordeaux Circus College or a National Certificate in Horticulture at Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC) in Dumfries. Without regret, I often wonder how I might be living had I trained in circus performance.

Horticultural hero My ten-year-old daughter Georgie. Her ability to retain information is incredible. She often gives me facts I didn’t know, so she’s doing her own research already.

Favourite landscape and garden Benmore Botanic Garden near Dunoon in western Scotland is unique in both its exquisite collections of trees and shrubs and its naturalistic appeal. Every surface is clothed in moss and lichen. It would be impossible to recreate.

Most worthwhile tip for every gardener Learn about taxonomy – how plants are classified and grouped – it will enhance your understanding.

Favourite weed Herb Robert, Geranium robertianum, as it’s quite stylish and easily controlled.

Guiding principles Choose plants suited to the existing environmental conditions rather than struggling with those on the edge of their tolerance. This is a great way to eliminate waste in the garden.

The future of horticulture Environmental and sustainability issues are the key challenges facing modern gardeners. Horticulture has a lot to answer for in terms of the movement of plants, pesticide, energy and water usage, and the destruction of natural biospheres for aesthetic gain.

Social media fix I follow a few good Instagram accounts: head gardener @_andy_W for his quality work at Euridge Manor; plantsman @johnmgrimshaw for his eclectic taste in plants; and @conservatory_diaries for the happenings at Wiston House Gardens in West Sussex where I used to work.

What’s the next big project you’ll be tackling in the garden? At home in October I’ll be preparing my small but treasured collection of tender perennials for winter. At work, I’m propagating a range of interesting Rhododendron species and cultivars.

Contact lachlanrae@hotmail.co.uk; @lachlanrae_horticulturist

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