Who Do You Think You Are?

Have you ever wondered who is writing these blog posts and who are the lucky people that get to garden at Sissinghurst?

This blog is a collaborative affair amongst the Garden and Estate team and we all contribute to share our knowledge. Each department is made up of highly skilled individuals who love what they do. I would like to tell you about the garden team, the lucky people whose job it is to garden in this most wonderful place! A team I am pleased to say I am part of.

Head Gardener, Troy Smith has a team of eleven working with him. These include; Wendy who is our Assistant Head Gardener, Emma, Propagation and Nursery Manager, Jo, Peter, Claire and Josh our newest recruit. Two others, Helen and Phil job share, Helen three days a week and Phil two, oh and Jon our student. In addition, two gardeners, Lou and Helen work on the vegetable plot. We all have horticultural qualifications from different horticultural colleges around the country and various numbers of years of experience between us. Some of our former jobs include working for the Queen at Sandringham, the Botanic gardens at Reading University, Levens Hall, RHS Wisley and National Trust properties Bodnant, Clivedon and The Courts. So we like to think we know a thing or two and of course, what we do know and are all passionate about, is Sissinghurst!

The Garden Team from L to R: Pete, Claire, Troy, Phil, Jon, Helen, Josh, Emma

Some of the Garden Team from L to R: Pete, Claire, Troy, Phil, Jon, Helen, Josh, Emma, Jo

We like to learn and each week we have a small plant ident, around ten plants picked form the garden. These are placed on our table in our mess room and we have a week to learn their names (in latin of course) and study their form. At the end of the week we have a walk around the garden looking at these plants, sharing information we may have learnt about them, plant combinations which work well or maybe that we just don’t like them at all!

We like to share this knowledge with our visitors too and so we have a few vases with flowers which are looking particularly good that week, latin names attached, at the entrance to the garden. We also produce a sheet called Garden Cuttings which gives visitors an overview of what is happening in the garden for the month and also where to find the plants in vases. This blog is another way of sharing what we do. Visitors are always keen to know how or why we do tasks. We hope this blog, is a good way to share our knowledge.

So I have told you a bit about our team but you may have realised that we can’t keep Sissinghurst looking this good without a bit of extra help ….. Volunteers!

We have around thirty volunteers who come and give us their time. We like to have volunteers who can commit to a certain amount of time on a regular basis.

We have a group of ‘deadheaders’ who come in every Monday morning to deadhead all the roses in the rose garden. They arrive around 8.30am and are gone by 11am. The longest serving of the group is Eileen who is on her 25th year! Once the roses are done, they disappear until next year.

The Deadheaders from L to R: Margaret, Eileen, Greta, Sue and Harry

The Dead-headers from L to R: Margaret, Eileen, Greta, Sue and Harry

Rick works in the nursery for Emma. Former Merchant Navy, baker of cakes and teller of colourful stories! Rick can be found most mornings in the potting shed.

Rick busy at work

Rick busy at work

Cut flowers take up quite a bit of our time. Emma propagates, Wendy organises and Jo makes up the arrangements in Vita’s writing room, the tower and the library. Volunteer Mitzi then steps in and organises all the other arrangements around the property with her team of ‘Flower Ladies’. Mitzi pops in and out, often with her husband Mike. Mike helps Emma in the nursery sorting pots or cleaning labels, without Mike we would be knee deep in both!

Pom used to work in the ticket office and Colin in the shop but now both are kept busy. Pom sweeps and tidys once a week and Colin helps get all the plants ready for the plant shop twice a week. Rod and Margaret spend all day in the garden once a week, seen below clearing off the spent bulbs in the Lime Walk and other volunteers, including Chris and Jean, will happily turn their hand to whatever needs attention in the garden.

Of course, these are just a few of our volunteers , all are wonderful and we couldn’t do it as good as we do without them.

Claire (gardener)

6 thoughts on “Who Do You Think You Are?

    • Hello Dave, yes, now you know what we all look like and I know, we are a motley crew! Don’t feel so bad about our big team, I think your garden looks amazing so you should feel proud that you achieve such a lot. Helen


  1. I love reading your garden notes and the one on Dahlias I hope will save me killing mine off each year. Loved this one on the staff and helpers too.


  2. I think the idea of having vases with what is good at the entrance is fab. I have visited so many gardens where I have wondered what something is and there has been no one to ask


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