Gardens Adviser, South West
Ian Wright, consultancy manager and lead gardens adviser in the South West, looks after some of the most beautiful gardens in the UK.
What do you do?
I manage a small team of specialists who advise on everything to do with conserving our collections, from mining equipment to works of art and gardens, parks and plants. I also lead on gardens advice in the South West and Wales.
What are the best and worst things about your job?
Best: Having a job that allows me to visit some of the most fantastic gardens in the country and play a part in their development. I love inspiring people and seeing the careers of our gardeners take off, from new recruit to Head Gardener.
Worst: Office work on a sunny day. From the regional office at Lanhydrock, I can see the magnolias flowering in the garden in spring and have a growing desire to ditch the laptop.
What’s your most memorable recent garden visit?
Viewing St Michael’s Mount from a boat at sea, as we needed to look at the steep rock garden from a distance. Let’s just say it was a less than calm day …. even I lost interest in coastal gardens for a while!
What exciting projects are coming up?
At Kingston Lacy in Dorset we’re creating more access to the fantastic park and restoring the glasshouse in the kitchen garden. We recently discovered that Queen Victoria sent her kitchen gardeners here to be trained, so standards must have been high.
How did you first get interested in gardens?
When I was a child, I sold tomato plants to boost my pocket money. I didn’t make enough to retire at fourteen but it helped buy a mini greenhouse. My Gran was a big influence too and was in her seventies when she won the best kept bungalow garden in Twyford near Banbury.
What are the highlights of your career so far?
After training at Wisley, I worked at Tresco Abbey Garden in the Isles of Scilly and developed a real passion for coastal gardens. More recently, I headed up our work around plant health and the challenges our gardens face from new pests and diseases. A highlight was giving a presentation about this to international experts in California. The best practice poster we produced is now used worldwide. https://ppo.puyallup.wsu.edu/sod/page/14/?wsuwp_university_location=wsu-research-centers
What skills/qualifications do you need for this job?
First and foremost training and hands on horticultural experience. I was a Head Gardener for twenty years and you never stop learning. You need to be creative, prepared to try new things and inspire a wide range of people. Working with historic gardens means understanding the spirit of each place, how it was created and what makes it special.
What’s your favourite garden and why?
If you had to pin me down it would be Overbecks in Devon. It’s got everything I love about a garden, surprise, intimacy, tender plants and a fantastic coastal setting. My other favourite is Tresco, sometimes described as Kew’s glasshouse with the lid taken off. Many gardeners wish they could grow that range of subtropical plants but it’s impossible anywhere else in the UK.
Any unfilled ambitions?
To become a Chelsea Show judge and to visit Kirstenbosch Botanical Garden in South Africa to see the fabulous collect of plants from the protea family.