Meet the Head Gardener

Gardener-in-Charge, Fenton House and Garden

Andrew Darragh - Gardener-in-Charge

Tucked away behind the secretive walls surrounding Fenton House is a hidden gem of garden that takes you on a satisfying journey from formality to greater and greater naturalism. This harmonious blend of horticultural styles is the handy work of resident gardener Andrew Darragh.

Gardener-in-charge, Andrew Darragh and Jack the dog

What's is it like gardening for the National Trust, and how is it different to other gardens?

Working as a gardener for the National Trust is like working for a large family as there is such a strong cause and message at the heart of it. Even at smaller property like Fenton House I find myself surrounded by a number of people working on many different and exciting projects.   Their passion and dedication is infectious and inspires as much today as it did when I joined the Trust five years ago. 

What's your favourite area of the garden at Fenton House?

This is possibly the hardest question you could ask. The 300 year old orchard, with its heritage apple and pear trees, is very special. If I did not have to work I could easily idle a day away down there. That being said, I love the drama and grandeur of the formal lawn. The vibrant hot colours that appear during late summer are set against sharp formal hedges and grand structure of topiary.

What's your favourite time of year in the garden?

Spring Spring Spring!  Do I have to explain why? Winter is over and everything is looking fresh, new and promising, I love the working in the glass house in February and March as it is the time for sowing then in 7 to 10 day later the seed try explode to life. I've spent 17 years in gardening and germination still excites me. Then of course there is the spring colour, or the spring bling as I like to call it, every colour possible erupts out freshly mulched soil or bright green grass.

" I love that I have a job where every day there is a new surprise that I can share with others."
- Andrew Darragh, Head Gardener, Fenton House and Garden

What exciting projects do you have coming up? 

This year I am working on creating four new borders with the aim of displaying four different styles of horticulture. Set in our Kitchen Garden we will showcase a tropical, Pirie-style, summer bedding and an herbaceous border.

Any top tips? 

My top tip is simple; keep on top of things, 20 minutes now and then, rather than 2 days later on. The aim is to nurture your garden rather than rescuing it from jungle of weed or forgotten pruning.

Andrew Darragh tends to the garden at Fenton House
Andrew Darragh, Head Gardener at Fenton House undertakes some work to the horticultural offering in the garden
Andrew Darragh tends to the garden at Fenton House

Any advice for those looking to start a career in gardening? 

It always great fun to get on a course and learn the basics. My college tutors at Kingston Maurwood College in Dorset taught me everything I needed to know to get started.

That being said the best advice anyone ever gave me was to simply get outdoors gardening and gain as much practical experience as you can. Many in London do not have access their own personal garden, but you could try garden volunteering with the National Trust, helping a friend or neighbours  or perhaps try to  get an allotment. The best thing is plants do not argue with you, but they soon tell you if they are not happy.