“It’s all cut back to the ground in Fe­bru­ary”

Garden Answers (UK) - - Beautiful Gardens -

How did you get the job? I was liv­ing in south west France with my fam­ily and we were look­ing to move back to the UK. I ap­plied for the job and was in­vited to take part in a Skype in­ter­view with Pen­sthorpe’s owner, Deb Jor­dan. They then asked me to fly back for a full in­ter­view and I got the job.

How big is your team? I have two full-time gar­den­ers. One con­cen­trates on the grass work three days a week, the other fo­cuses on the gardens.

What are the main sea­sonal jobs? We cut the en­tire Mil­len­nium Gar­den back to ground level in Fe­bru­ary, a process that takes about three weeks. Then we go through each of the beds and dig out larger clumps of plants and re­plant the di­vi­sions to make more. In early spring we plan our sum­mer dis­play for the gar­den around Grade II-listed Five Cot­tages (where the new Pen­sthorpe of­fices are) and prop­a­gate the plants for it. Then we work in the Wave Line and Habi­tat gardens con­trol­ling weeds and re­plant­ing any patches the geese have eaten! In au­tumn we work on the hedges and any winter projects.

In Septem­ber what are you work­ing on? That’s when I start plan­ning the winter’s work and any new ex­pan­sion of the gardens. We do some plant­ing and re­plant­ing of ar­eas that haven’t worked. I also prop­a­gate new peren­ni­als needed for the fol­low­ing year’s dis­plays.

Do you have a favourite part of the gardens? We’ve just cre­ated a new area that looks back at the Mil­len­nium Gar­den. Here we’ve put in two new bridges, so now you can see a dif­fer­ent as­pect of the gar­den, with water on both sides. It gives vis­i­tors a won­der­ful panoramic view.

Can you pin­point the most chal­leng­ing part of your job? Gar­den­ing with wild geese and ducks, which are nat­u­ral en­e­mies of gar­den­ers! I have to ac­com­mo­date them and come up with new plant­ings that are less attractive to the geese for their din­ner.

What would you say is the most spe­cial thing about Pen­sthorpe? For me it’s the fact the gardens are evolv­ing all the time un­der own­ers Bill and Deb Jor­dan. I’ve been able to plant new gardens in­clud­ing one that sur­rounds Five Cot­tages. It’s full of colour with the aim of at­tract­ing younger vis­i­tors, and it’s very dif­fer­ent from the other gardens here at Pen­sthorpe.

And the best bit of your job? It’s a very spe­cial place full of wildlife and lakes, which re­flect the light into the gardens. And there’s the wildlife of course: there aren’t many peo­ple who can say they’ve seen a king­fisher while they’re out weed­ing.

For a full Mil­len­nium Gar­den plant list visit www.pen­sthorpe.com

Jonathan Pearce is head gar­dener at the 600-acre Pen­sthorpe es­tate, where he looks af­ter all the gar­den ar­eas, in­clud­ing the Mil­len­nium Gar­den. He works di­rectly for own­ers Bill Jor­dan (founder of Jordans Ce­re­als) and Bill’s wife Deb.

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