Erika Packard named new head gardener at Parham House & Gardens

Journalist and marketer-turned horticulturist Erika Packard has been appointed as head gardener of Parham House & Gardens, while her horticulturist husband Tim Miles is joining as assistant head gardener.

Tim Miles and Erika Packard are "a dynamic creative collaboration". Image: Erika Packard
Tim Miles and Erika Packard are "a dynamic creative collaboration". Image: Erika Packard

The two rising stars will join the West Sussex Elizabethan house and 18th Century walled garden and pleasure grounds on 9 September, fulfilling a dream which germinated when they met at Royal Botanic Gardens Edinburgh (RBGE).

Packard replaces Tom Brown, who has himself replaced retiring head gardener partners Jim Buckland and Sarah Wain as head gardener of West Dean Gardens.

Originally from Virginia, Packard trained and worked as a writer and a photographer in Washington DC for five years before moving into marketing communications and web and print design back in Virginia. While there she learnt about horticulture and landscaping, training as a community horticultural educator and volunteering with the Piedmont Master Gardeners in her hometown of Charlottesville.

She moved to Scotland to study for a BSc degree in Horticulture with Plantsmanship from the RBGE, finishing at the top of her class. She went on to become head gardener of a large private garden designed by Tom Stuart- Smith in Kent. 

Packard also met her husband Tim Miles, who moved into horticulture in 2014 after a career as a chef in prestigious restaurants around the world. Miles graduated from RBGE with distinction in July 2017 and that month began work at Sissinghurst Castle Garden in Kent. In 2018 he won the Chartered Institute of Horticulture’s Young Horticulturist of the Year competition. 

He said: "Since Erika and I met at Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, it has been our dream to develop a garden together, and we are especially grateful to Lady Emma and her husband James for having the vision to engage us as a team. We believe working with them and the existing gardeners at Parham will be a dynamic creative collaboration that will push the garden forward into a new and exciting stage of development." 

Lady Emma Barnard, chatelaine of Parham, comments, "Erika and Tim are energetic and highly knowledgeable horticulturists, with a sophisticated eye for detail. They understand and share what has always been my simple vision for the garden, namely that, in order for it to continue to flourish as a dynamic part of the visitor attraction, the emphasis should remain on it being a uniquely beautiful, tranquil family garden of exceptional quality." 

Parham is known for its rare and precious collection of paintings, furniture and needlework, which is another interest of Packard’s. The 1.62 hectare 18th Century walled garden includes a vegetable garden, orchard and 1920s Wendy house. Its opulent mixed borders and abundant greenhouse provide flowers and plants to decorate every room in the house, an old Parham tradition. The adjoining pleasure grounds include a lake, many specimen trees and a brick and turf maze. 

Packard said: "I am very excited by the chance to lead an already accomplished team as we continue Parham’s upward trajectory as a notable British garden. I plan to bring horticultural rigour, an artist’s eye and a plantsperson’s wide palette to develop a garden that honours its dramatic historic setting while providing an inspirational experience for its visitors." 

Parham House & Gardens is open to the public from April to October.


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