Pete Tasker

Senior Gardener, Hill Top

Pete Tasker - Senior Gardener

Some call him the real Mr McGregor but we promise he's much friendlier than that. Pete Tasker has been looking after the garden at Hill Top for over 30 years.

Gate at Hill Top, Cumbria

What's your gardening history?

After leaving school I took a three year HND course at Askham Bryan College near York and then worked at Kew Gardens for three years.  A job came up with the National Trust in the Lake District for a ‘Peripatetic Gardener’ covering the gardens at Hill Top, Townend and Wordsworth House.

I applied and to my great surprise I was offered the job. At various times over the last 30 years I’ve also been responsible for the gardens at Stagshaw and High Close but Hill Top has remained a constant.

What do you like best about working at Hill Top?

I never tire of the way the garden changes so dramatically in spring every year. It goes from the ‘sticks and mud’ of winter to a gloriously colourful cottage garden in just a few months. I also love seeing our visitors discovering scenes in the garden so familiar from Beatrix Potter’s little books.

What is your favourite Hill Top plant?

There’s so many it’s impossible to pick just one. Each season has its stars, from the first snowdrops of early spring, the wisterias and roses of summer, to the dahlias which flower until the first frosts of autumn.

Snowdrops are always the first to arrive
Closeup of snowdrops in the garden at Hill Top
Snowdrops are always the first to arrive

Which is your favourite of Beatrix's ‘little tales’?

It has to be ‘The Tale of Tom Kitten’. It’s got some great illustrations of Hill Top garden and I’ve used them to work out what was growing in the borders when Beatrix painted them.

Any top gardening tips?

Time spent dead-heading is never wasted. It tidies up your borders and prolongs the flowering season.

Don’t be in too much of a hurry to cut back your borders at the end of the year. The seeds of herbaceous perennials provide a valuable food source for birds such as goldfinches and sparrows which need all the help they can get before winter sets in. The bonus for the gardener is that after a frost or heavy dew the garden takes on a whole new beauty.

Winter snow and light bring beauty to the Hill Top garden
Hill Top garden covered in snow
Winter snow and light bring beauty to the Hill Top garden

Don’t spend all your time head down in the borders.  Remember to take the time to just sit and enjoy the fruits of your labours every now and then.

Spend money on good tools. With a bit of care they’ll become old friends and last you a lifetime.

What has been the highlight of your career so far?

It’s a toss-up between filming with Alan Titchmarsh for his Channel 5 series and being interviewed live on the Chris Evans Radio 2 Breakfast Show with an audience of over 9 million.

Gardening royalty, Alan Titchmarsh, at Hill Top with Senior Gardener, Pete Tasker
Senior gardener at Hill Top with presenter and gardener Alan Titchmarsh
Gardening royalty, Alan Titchmarsh, at Hill Top with Senior Gardener, Pete Tasker