Interview - Jane Moore, head gardener, Bath Priory

Somerset's Bath Priory, under head gardener Jane Moore, recently won the 2013 Garden Trophy from its owner, the 518-member hotel group Relais & Châteaux.

Jane Moore, head gardener, Bath Priory - image: Bath Priory
Jane Moore, head gardener, Bath Priory - image: Bath Priory

She manages and develops 1.6ha of walled gardens at the four-star hotel including herbaceous borders, an organic kitchen garden and a Victorian glasshouse.

Moore has mixed a career as a head gardener with media work over the past 20 years, winning a medal at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show, Garden Media Guild awards, television researching for the likes of Alan Titchmarsh and writing for trade and consumer publications.

Why has the garden won the Garden Trophy?

We were thrilled to be recognised by such a prestigious group — there are just the two of us who work in the garden, myself and Anna, and we have endeavoured to create a very special garden that is enjoyed by visitors from all over the world. We want the garden to not only be enjoyed but truly appreciated. The gardens were described as four acres of horticultural paradise and the Bath Priory was chosen out of 518 other Relais & Châteaux properties spread across 60 countries. There are a number of bigger gardens on our doorstep, but this award has shown that we are a little upstart now up with the big boys.

How do you make the kitchen garden attractive as part of the hotel garden?

The kitchen garden, although a small part of the main garden, is still crucial. It's great for the chefs to be able to harvest fruit and vegetables, and especially herbs, absolutely fresh and in their prime. It's also lovely for the guests to wander around and see all of the produce growing — a lot of our strawberries get picked by the guests. There is a strong emphasis on making the kitchen garden an attractive part of the garden as a whole and I do think about aesthetics when we plan the crop rotations. So I have red cabbages alongside leafy kale as well as purple French beans next to courgettes, for instance.

What is it that you grow at the priory?

A A wide array of many different plant and tree species, from the tulips in the spring, which people come and visit as part of the National Gardens Scheme (NGS). We also have dahlias, asters and sub-tropical species in the garden, along with our roses, which have had a good year. It has been a wet, dreary year for us gardeners, but the autumn colour and its longevity have been superb this year. There are always swings and roundabouts in this line of work.

How do you manage the trees, particularly the 150-year-old Lebanese cedar?

We actually believe that the Lebanese cedar is quite a bit older than that. We also have an old weeping ash, which is notoriously brittle. We have identified the key trees in the garden that we keep a regular eye on and the trees all have their regular maintenance — as well as tender loving care.

How do you manage your team?

We are a small team, just the two of us — I work full-time and my assistant, Anna, who works three days a week. We are very much in sync with one another, which is important when you are running a garden. Being such a small team means that I am very much hands-on in the garden, which I enjoy. We do projects in stages and hire in help if and when needed.

What are the challenges of running a hotel garden?

There is always something going on. We have visitors from all over the world and many are garden enthusiasts. We also arrange RHS tours and open two days a year in the spring and summer for the NGS. It is brilliant fun. I always wanted a garden to open for the NGS, which raises a good amount of money for charity. There are also parties and, of course, New Year's Eve with fireworks, so always planning ahead.

Do you have any new projects in the pipeline?

We are currently working on our provisional National Collection of Cotinus smoke bushes, which are excellent for autumn colour. Leaves have only just dropped in the garden so they gave us a spectacular display this year and they are, of course, honey fungus-resistant, which has been bit of a problem in the garden in the past. I have my regular writing projects and do the odd feature. I find when working in the garden I become animated about a particular thing such as my peonies, which then gives me the inspiration about the writing projects. When I am writing and researching, it gives me ideas about what practical projects we should do next in the garden.


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