How I Got Started: Ross Barbour, head gardener, Ragley Hall

Ross Barbour, head gardener, Ragley Hall. Image: Ross Barbour
Ross Barbour, head gardener, Ragley Hall. Image: Ross Barbour

How did you start in horticulture? I was forced to do gardening by my mum as a kid hanging around in the school holidays and I learnt quickly to make myself scarce.

I left school at 16 and wanted to do forestry but my mum suggested a Youth Training Scheme in horticulture, which I did at Creighton Royal Hospital, Dumfries, with training at Barony College. I worked in private gardens open to the public including Buccleuch Estates at Drumlanrig Castle in Dumfries. I was just a gardener and never really into horticulture but at Buccleuch the head gardener Seymour Blacklock inspired me and planted the seed.

What is your typical day? Unfortunately, in the position I'm in I don't get a lot of time to do any gardening. I'm running around keeping the gardeners going and fixing machines, doing planning and paperwork and making sure the four full-time gardeners, the student and two volunteers are achieving.

What is the best part of your job? At the end of the day and the weekend when you get the chance to get into the garden and do a bit of work, oddly enough. I can relax and go into the veg garden without the phone going.

And the worst? Nothing, really

What piece of kit can't you do without? Felco secateurs and a Scag Humus mower, which has cut strimming by 90 per cent.

What does the future hold? I will keep developing the garden. For the first five years we worked on a fairly neglected garden, cutting back undergrowth and digging out laurels. In the past five years we've developed the prairie garden and done an alpine garden and the new rose garden, which opened last month and raised the profile for visitors. We're 25 acres (10ha) and get about 70,000 visitors a year.


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