Gar­den­ing tal­ent

Forde Abbey’s new head gar­dener stud­ied hor­ti­cul­ture in Ja­pan, Amer­ica and Europe and ear­lier this year was awarded Churchill Fel­low­ship fund­ing to look at sus­tain­able soil prac­tices overseas

Gardens Illustrated Magazine - - CONTENTS - POR­TRAIT AN­DREW MONT­GOMERY

Meet Joshua Sparkes, new head gar­dener at Forde Abbey

Ear­li­est gar­den mem­ory I grew up in the old town in Hast­ings and I re­mem­ber all the self-seeded echi­ums ris­ing like rocket ships above peo­ple’s fences and won­der­ing what on earth they were. First plant love I love my Nan’s tree fern that she got in a lo­cal hard­ware store when I was a kid, I re­mem­ber try­ing to cram it into the back seat of her Mini to get it home. It’s even more of a love story be­cause now it is mine and it re­minds me of her ev­ery day. Who has in­spired your ca­reer the most? My old head gar­dener Troy Scott Smith at Siss­inghurst. He taught me to ques­tion ev­ery­thing, per­se­vere through crit­i­cism and to trust your in­stincts. A gar­den that has in­flu­enced you Ichijo-ji tem­ple in Ja­pan. While study­ing there I learned about the deep emo­tional re­sponse a gar­den can cre­ate. My ex­pe­ri­ence there stripped away my pre­vi­ous no­tions of what a gar­den was; it was hear­ing the rain hit the wooden roof, my bare feet on the cold floor, the smell of in­cense burnt into the black wood while watch­ing a mist rise over the moun­tains. Big­gest chal­lenge fac­ing gar­den­ers to­day I worry about the fu­ture of his­toric gar­dens and their rel­e­vance as the trend moves to­wards ‘sus­tain­able’ and ‘eco­log­i­cal’ gar­den­ing, which seems only to in­clude one aes­thetic. Sus­tain­abil­ity needs to be con­sid­ered in a sym­pa­thetic way that main­tains the unique char­ac­ter of a gar­den, re­tain­ing its his­tory with­out brand­ing cer­tain prac­tices and de­signs as wrong. We can man­age all gar­dens in a sus­tain­able way what­ever their style. What prin­ci­ples guide your at­ti­tude to gar­den­ing For me it’s about be­ing or­ganic when prac­ti­cally pos­si­ble, al­low­ing the nat­u­ral sea­sonal rhythm through the year, cel­e­brat­ing the beauty of both life and death and be­ing holis­tic and re­laxed in my gar­den­ing style. Favourite gar­den­ing books I love the Team­ing with… series by Jeff Lowen­fels about life in the soil, I also find my­self re­turn­ing to Es­say on Gar­den­ing by Henk Ger­rit­sen a lot and have a well-thumbed copy of The One-Straw Rev­o­lu­tion by Masanobu Fukuoka. What’s the next big project in the gar­den? I’ve just got back from Amer­ica and Europe look­ing at meth­ods of soil man­age­ment from a gar­dener’s per­spec­tive. We have just built a new com­post fa­cil­ity and will be trail­ing meth­ods, I re­ally want to see what works best for the fu­ture, es­pe­cially as our cli­mate changes. Con­tact josh@forde­abbey.co.uk and fol­low him on In­sta­gram at joshua_s­parkes

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