We are delighted to announce that we have a brand new member of the team.

Meet Richard, our new Head-Gardener.  Richard joined us in February and has spent the last few weeks getting to know the Gardens and the many hundreds of plants, shrubs, and trees that make up this beautiful landscape.

Now that he’s had a chance to settle in, we managed to persuade him to down tools for an hour or so and join us around the table over a steaming cuppa. We wanted to get to know him a bit better, find out how he got into gardening and see if he has any gardening tips to share with our wonderful green-fingered community. So, here goes:

How did you get into horticulture?

I grew up living in parks lodges as my dad worked as Parks Superintendent for various local councils. At that time, I had no interest whatsoever in gardening but when I left the army aged 21 I just wanted to work outside. I got a job in the nursery of the local Parks Department and was lucky enough to get the chance to study Horticulture at Cannington College in Somerset. Whilst there, I found that I was really interested in the aesthetics of gardening. Creating pictures in the landscape is something that I really enjoy.

What are the best bits about your job?

I love being out in all weathers and witnessing how the landscape develops and changes as the seasons unfold. Gardening is often challenging with seemingly limitless possibilities and elements to bring together. I love finding innovative ways of tackling difficult issues in the garden, then overcoming them and ultimately seeing plans come together.

What do you least like about your job?

Having said I like being outdoors, being out in really awful weather isn’t much fun. Not just because it’s unpleasant sometimes, but more because it stops me getting on with the work I love.

What advice would you give to someone thinking about a career in horticulture?

Make sure you visit gardens whenever you get the chance. Try and work out what types of gardens and plants you are interested in but don’t restrict yourself. Try all aspects of gardening.

How has Antony Woodland Garden faired during the stormy weather of the last few months? 

I’m not sure as I moved here in the midst of storm Ciara so don’t really know what conditions were like before. Dennis came along the following weekend and I was beginning to wonder whether it was always stormy here. There hasn’t been that much tree damage. What there is, is currently being dealt with. The main problem is that everything including the paths is so waterlogged.

Spring is nearly here, what will you be up to at Antony Woodland Garden over the coming weeks?

Clearing fallen debris. Trying to sort out flooded paths. Planting Magnolias. Getting to grips with planting records and planning a new labelling system.

It’s been a very wet winter everywhere, will it have caused any unseen damage to our gardens at home?

Even though the rain has eased off there will be areas of gardens that are still waterlogged. Plants sat in wet soil could start to die off. It’s a good idea to check the condition of your plants and try and improve drainage where necessary.

As things dry up, what should we be doing in our own gardens to ensure they look their best as spring unfolds?

Clear leaves as well as debris from trees and shrubs, and from beds and lawns. Prune any dead wood from shrubs. Clear weeds and put down mulch before the soil dries.

If you could only pick one plant to grow this season, what would it be?

Camellia japonica ‘Alba Simplex’. This is a beautiful plant with flat open white flowers with a yellow centre.

Have you got a top gardening tip of your own (that readers won’t find anywhere else)?

I’ve often been told that this or that plant can’t be pruned. But if you have an old overgrown shrub that’s not looking healthy or attractive and is creating a black hole in your garden; Prune it. Be decisive. Cut out any dead wood and re-shape the plant. The worst thing that can happen is it will die. It that happens, you can always replace it with something else that will look more attractive.

What is your favourite plant?

Rhododendron ‘Cynthia’

What do you like to do in your spare time?

Run, walk, visit gardens, read history, dance.

Who do you have at home?

I am married to Kristine. We have 2 grown-up children, who don’t live with us, and 2 cats, who do.

What’s your favourite film?

Lord of the Rings, it’s also my favourite book!

What is your most significant event during your career in horticulture so far? 

Visiting many historic gardens whilst studying Garden History at the University of Bristol. Also helping design and creating a Japanese garden on the edge of Dartmoor.

Thanks for your time, Richard. The sun has just come out, I guess its time to go and tackle those flooded paths. 

Don’t forget, if you have a burning question about plants and gardening, you can always visit our Q & A page


Sarah Bartlett


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