Focus on Tim Parker, Head Gardener, Polesden Lacey
“I’m Head Gardener at Polesden Lacey. I’ve been working at the National Trust on and off since 2003, and in continuous employment since December 2006. I had worked at Polesden Lacey for nearly four years, and was just 28 when the Head Gardener position came up. It was advertised in Horticulture Week and was really competitive. I had set my heart set on getting the job. I feel so, so lucky to have achieved that.
When I joined the Trust back in 2003, I needed a job. To go somewhere where the people were so friendly and dedicated was a real bonus. I really grew to love the work I was doing and I could see it was making a difference. Above all, I was sharing this with visitors and chatting with them, which is really rewarding. I knew this was what I wanted to be doing.
My experience with the Trust has surpassed everything I ever thought it would. As a gardener, the role is really diverse, because not only are you involved in the technical side of horticulture, but you find yourself involved with events, training volunteers and doing interesting surveys. We support the visitor experience team too, so I provide garden tours and workshops. I’m also looking at different ways we can connect with local communities.
As Head Gardener, I’m responsible for the maintenance and improvement of the gardens here at Polesden Lacey. I line manage a team of four gardeners, who I strive to make sure are happy and comfortable in their work. In addition, we have over 40 garden volunteers, six tour guides and six conservation volunteers.
On a day-to-day basis, I create work plans and job lists for the week. Although I’m new to line managing, I really enjoy it. The best bit is undoubtedly watching people grow and supporting them with their aspirations.
I have learned loads while working for the Trust, absolutely loads. Of course, a lot of that has been horticulture and conservation – like the effects of frost on statues – but I’ve also learned how to work with people, particularly volunteers. Working for the National Trust has given me a real opportunity to grow. I’ve been so lucky with training too. There have been lots of courses, like Tractor Training, Tower Scaffolding and tree management safety for example. I was also able to do an RHS Advanced course in Horticulture in the evenings while I was working at the Trust, which coincided nicely with my work, as I was able to try my plant identification skills out in the field.
And then, I received encouragement to undertake the RHS Diploma. I was really keen to do it, but it was expensive and took up a lot more time than previous courses. The Trust ended up funding half of the course and allowing me day release for a year, to which I am truly very grateful. I was also put in touch with a bursary, which also helped towards the funding.
Above all, I’ve just loved my time at the Trust. If I had to pick one aspect of the role I enjoy the most, I’d say that it’s the people. We have the opportunity to come into contact with so many different people, and it’s just great getting to share our ideas with them all.”