How did you get started in the industry? I’ve been at Alnwick for seven-and-a-half years. Previously I was principal of the school and administrated the estate at the National Trust for Scotland’s Threave Gardens. I worked in forest landscape at Peterborough Development Corporation and my parents were horrified when I was offered a job as a gardening apprentice. I studied landscape design and construction at Merrist Wood College, then worked in London for a couple of years, then at Threave, then set up my own business — I earned more in two days working for myself than in a week at the National Trust.
What is the best aspect of your job? Interaction with the public. We’re encouraged to answer questions and give advice. We get started at 7am before we open at 10am to get as much work done as we can. Interacting with the public makes it special and keeps them coming back. We also do charitable work with schools and growing food with pupils. They make vegetable soup from what they grow. Some from deprived areas of Newcastle don’t realise carrots and potatoes come from the ground. We also work with people with Alzheimer’s and dementia using horticulture as therapy.
What are the plans for the garden? The garden is not finished yet. There’s a lot to do to get it complete and follow the original Wirtz garden plan. We hope to complete it in five years. Next we are going to develop in front of the cascade, which will be landscaped. The poison garden is the most popular area and we have recreated it at Gardening Scotland in Edinburgh, which is only an hour and 20 minutes away. We’ve never really marketed the garden before in Scotland. We’re going to expand it because it’s so popular.