Garden and Estate Manager, Stourhead
Alan’s career as a National Trust gardener began in 1995 when he joined Stourhead’s garden team. He was then tempted over to Mount Stewart in County Down, only to return to Stourhead in Wiltshire in 2004 when he landed his dream job as Garden and Estate Manager in the classic landscape garden he so loves. Alan cares for Stourhead’s 2650 acres with the help of five full time gardeners, two full time rangers and a team of over 30 volunteers.
Why did you choose gardening as a career?
My deep love of gardening can be traced back to my family garden in Cork, Ireland. I loved gardening, being outdoors and learning all about plants and nature.
I learnt to garden under the guidance and supervision of my mother, a world-class flower arranger, and inherited my passion for hard work from my dad. I was hooked from a young age and studied horticulture at Writtle College in Essex and arboriculture at Merrist Wood College in Surrey.
How would you describe Stourhead?
Stourhead is the most beautiful landscape garden. It’s a picture that can be stepped into and explored, then carried in your heart forever.
Which area of the garden do you like working in best?
Close to the lake. I love to study the views and look for the tiny little improvements that are needed or simply be blown away by its beauty.
What’s your favourite time of year at Stourhead and why?
It has to be autumn. The garden, the architecture, the plants and the trees all perform perfectly together. It’s like an encore before the rest for winter.
Is there a historical gardener you’d have liked to meet?
It would have to be Capability Brown. He was an amazing man with passion and kindness in his heart. However there’s a list of great gardeners I would like to have met – from Gertrude Jekyll, William Kent and Christopher Lloyd to Graham Stuart Thomas, Henry Hoare and Lady Londonderry – so it’s hard to narrow it down. They were all amazing in their own right – they gave so much to horticulture and inspired so many.
Which famous gardener or designer has influenced you most in your career?
Historically it would have to be William Kent, but more recently I’d go back a few years to when I listened to a lecture by Kim Wilkie, landscape architect, which I found truly inspirational. Great designers and architects still exist.