A global adventure for a student Gardener

Published : Thu 5th Feb Author : Student Gardener Phil

Here at the National Trust, we look after the greatest collection of historic garden and garden plants under single ownership in Europe, if not the world. From conifers and culinary herbs to Chinese shrubs and cherry blossoms, our garden plants stem from all corners of the globe. And what better way learn all about them than by working and learning in three of the world’s most incredible gardens? That’s exactly what two of our Student Gardeners did. Phil Brown shares his experience.

My first week in Abbey Gardens, Tresco: Before jetting off, Rhiannon and I spent four weeks working in some of the UK’s greatest gardens, starting at The Abbey Gardens on the Isle of Tresco. The climate is incredibly warm all year round which allows all sorts of amazing plants to grow that wouldn’t have a chance in the UK. We’d just missed out on the flowering of the spike of Agave salmiana which takes around 35 years to flower and is bright yellow in full bloom. I was keen to give Tresco’s new backpack battery powered hedge cutters a go to see how they compare to the electric ones we have at Hidcote. And the important task of feeding the resident red squirrels on the island was definitely not to be forgotten in a day’s work.

Botanical gems in Boccanegra: Our first stop outside of the UK was the south of Italy. Here, we stayed with garden owner and manager, Ursula, an amazing lady who treated us to the best home cooked Italian food you could imagine in exchange for us working in her beautiful garden. Wild, rocky and overlooking the Mediterranean Sea, Boccanegra was very different from gardens back home – but the weather was not. Unexpected torrential rain before our visit had caused quite a lot of damage to the garden which we set about repairing. As well as organising the greenhouse, clearing spent pine needles and sparking up a friendship with Ursula’s dog ‘Dragon’, we visited some amazing gardens nearby. We spent time in Serre de la Madone, a stunning creation of Lawrence Johnston, the same man who created Hidcote! It was really interesting to see the similarities in the two gardens!

Island gardens and new traditions in Japan: Our first few days in were spent settling into life in Japan and experiencing some cultural activities and traditions including the Lion Dance, the New Year festival and Mochitsuki which involves pounding glutinous rice into dough with a large wooden hammer! We later visited Shikoko Island and on our way back, stopped at Ritsurin Garden, one of Japan’s most famous landscape gardens. Everything about the Ritsurin was just beautiful. We spent Friday working at the Miracle Planet Museum of Plants where my job was raising the canopy on all the cordylines in the tropical garden. We have a busy schedule here in Japan – which is just getting started – and I’m very much looking forward to seeing as much as possible during my stay.

We’ll be following Phil’s botanical adventures as he continues his Student Gardener global journey.