Me & My Job - Tony Russell, independent garden consultant and author

Tony Russell
Tony Russell

How did you get started in the industry? I studied forestry and horticulture at Newton Rigg. After graduating in 1983 I took up a job as a forester for the New Forest in Hampshire. For 13 years I was head forester at Westonbirt Arboretum and now I have my own garden consultation business where I look after and conserve gardens at National Trust and stately homes.

What advice would you give to others starting out? Obtain all the practical skills that you can. Apprentices are the future of the industry.

What does your typical day involve? Some days I may be working with gardens in Wales and other days I am speaking at events or conferences. When working on my book, I had the honour of visiting every garden I spoke about, which resulted in countless visits.

What is the best aspect of your job? I’m able to get my hands dirty. Britain has so many beautiful gardens and parks — my job enables me to visit them all. My theory is you cannot write about gardens unless you are out there visiting them.

What have you been working on recently? I am working with Plas-tan-y-bwlch to help restore their garden for the North Wales garden festival. I am revamping and restoring one of the Victorian gardens. I am also working a variety of books.

What has been your biggest achievement at work? When the Government awarded Westonbirt national [arboretum] status.

What does the future hold for the industry? More people than ever are appreciating the beauty that British gardens and parks have to offer. The public garden scheme offers more people the opportunity to visit gardens. With more gardens opening to the public, the rise in maintenance results in more staff needed.

How do you unwind after a hard day at work? I live on Snowdonia, so if I feel I need to change up my day or relax then I do love to climb.


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