Friday, 17 April 2015

National Gardening Week

National Gardening Week- A Chat with Head Gardener Chris Gill 

To celebrate National Gardening Week I sat down with our head gardener, Chris Gill, to chat to him about the gardens at Berkeley Castle. Chris has worked his way up to earn himself the position of Head Gardener over 25 years of working the soils of the castle gardens. Stemming from a hobby, and an initial job in the local garden centre, the hobby quickly turned into a passion, and after a stint of learning on the job… Chris was rewarded with the esteemed position of Head Gardener for the Berkeley Castle Estate.

When discussing the parts of the job he enjoys most, Chris comments that it is the variety in his day to day jobs that keeps him happy. He also likes that, on the whole, the job is quite peaceful (apart from the occasional roar of a strimmer) with him being able to manage his own time and escape the normal busy office routine.

An average day will see Chris arrive at work to his first duty of checking on the seedlings and keeping an eye out for any that are ready to be planted. Next on his list is a gardener’s favourite…. watering the grounds, a crucial part of the job in order to keep the gardens hydrated and looking fresh. There’s very much a team spirit work ethic here at Berkeley Castle, and thus Chris spends a fair bit of his time helping out other members of staff in the Butterfly House and with general castle maintenance.

Another key  aspect of the job includes the maintenance of the lawns… did you know that it used to take Chris all day to complete the mammoth task of mowing the lower lawns, but now thanks to a fantastic new mower… it takes just two hours! However all of these activities are dictated by the great British weather… and therefore a task he puts on his list to do tomorrow, may not be doable if we have an overnight downpour.

Over the next few weeks there will be many beautiful and interesting species coming into bloom, including the colourful collection of Peonies which have just started to show. We can expect to see the Clianthus with white, pink and red flowers blooming in the Kitchen Garden in the visitor entrance area. Plus, one of our exotic plants, the Caesalpinia, is expected to bloom by the end of the month, and is sure to be a beautiful flower to keep an eye out for on the lower terrace.

Chris comments that the soil in the borders are particularly rich thanks to many centuries of tending, and are especially good to plant in as they drain so well. Back in the 1910’s/ 1920’s you would have expected to see around 30 gardeners working on grounds this size, with the job being much more labour intensive and many more shrubbery borders being cared for.

With eight acres of grounds surrounding the Castle there is an array of different areas to explore, from the wilder woodlands with fresh garlic growing, to the neat boarders on the terraces and the kitchen gardens with individual vegetable patches. There really is such variety to see in the Berkeley Castle Gardens. Plus, since last being open to the public, Chris has been busy planting plenty of exotic bulbs ready to pop up this Spring and Summer, which will be able to be seen in the borders throughout the gardens.  

Finally, I asked Chris if he could garden anywhere in the world where would it be? He gave the very modest answer of right here in England…. or perhaps South of France, so the temperature didn’t drop off quite so much in the winter months. Chris trusts that with a little protection from the elements, you can grow plants from nearly every corner of the world and that is enough to keep his garden happy.

Plant Sales & New Gardeners Range in the Shop

We’ve got a fantastic selection of plant sales this year from the brilliant Sunnyside Nurseries and local supplier Chris Pattison. Why not pop along to Berkeley Castle for a little garden inspiration and then visit the Plant Sales Area to spruce up your own garden at home?

We also have a lovely new gardener’s range in the shop, with items varying from muscle soak for those long days spent pruning, dibbers for planting, to quaint seed tins and “Grandad’s Garden” signs.

Berkeley Castle is open every Sunday-Wednesday from 11am to 5pm and looks forward to welcoming you for a visit soon. 




Berkeley Castle, Gloucestershire, GL13 9BQ


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