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