How I got started: Tom Attwood, head gardener, Gresgarth Hall, Lancashire

- How did you break into the industry?

I started working at 13 at a small plant nursery and fruit tree grower near Carlisle. It was during that period I decided I wanted to do it as a career. I then did an HND at Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, which gave me a very good grounding in how gardens work and in nomenclature. I also did the Kew Diploma, before taking up a job at the Duchy of Cornwall Nursery, then working on the restoration of Rydal Hall in Cumbria.

- Who or what was your inspiration?

I grew up watching Geoff Hamilton. He was a bit old-school - nothing flashy - but had a passion for plants and gardening. Also Harry Dodson's series The Victorian Kitchen Garden was an early inspiration.

- What has been your most difficult job?

At Rydal Hall, it was juggling the many aspects of the job, from recruiting volunteers to organising the basic logistics. The work was very manual too, as everything had to be brought in by hand, including 30 tonnes of horse manure.

- What is your advice to novices?

Get as much as you can from people who know. So many people are happy to share their time and experience. I once spent 10 days learning from the gardeners at Threave, which was brilliant.

- How do you relax?

I like reading books on the history of gardening. My wife and I love cooking, and we grow our own vegetables

- What does the future hold?

Developing and improving the gardens at Gresgarth, and introducing the volunteer and student elements that were so enjoyable at Rydal Hall. Too few young people get involved in gardens.


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