Three-quarters of the RNRS gardeners have left its showpiece St Albans-based Gardens of the Rose following the re-opening of the gardens in June.
They have complained of being unable to buy new plants, of running out of weedkiller and of not having enough staff to prune roses or pull weeds. “I feel bad for the head gardener Neil Oakman,” said former staff member Karen Martin. “I decided to leave because I became disillusioned.”
RNRS chief executive Richard Adams left his role early in September and a replacement has yet to be appointed.
The society, a charity founded in 1876, is employing a consultant to sort out its financial matters.
Martin said: “It’s sickening to see the plans not happening. They must have a business plan but it can’t have been followed. We’re not allowed plants to fill the gaps. We’ve only used donated roses. It’s the key planting season but we can’t buy plants and there are 7,500 roses to be pruned this winter. One person can’t do all that. Visitor numbers have suffered because of poor marketing. I live 10 miles away but if I didn’t work there I would never have heard of it otherwise. The gardens might struggle on through next year but if visitors see the gaps between roses we’ve planted haven’t been filled they won’t go again. I can’t leave the gardens without anyone knowing about what’s happening.
“Trial beds need spraying before mulching. They’ve been rotavated and are ready to go but are getting greener with weeds by the day. There’s no point mulching on top of weeds. And we’ve no glyphosate to kill them. We’ve spent 18 months working hard on what we thought was going to be an important garden but now I’ve had enough.”
In September, the gardens welcomed their 10,000th visitor since reopening. They are now closed for the winter until May 2008.
RNRS president Ann Bird said: “We are looking into it. We have a board meeting coming up when everything will be discussed. At the moment we are in a period of change. We need to make board decisions on everything. We can get contract gardeners in — Neil won’t be doing everything on his own.
“We also have a new manager coming in to do all sorts of things. I’m acting as chief executive and president at the moment.”
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