Nestled within the beautiful South Oxfordshire countryside you can find the hidden gem that is Waterperry Gardens.
Encompassing glorious ornamental gardens and boasting a fascinating history, we caught up with Waterperry’s very own Head Gardener, Pat Havers, to find out what she and her team are getting up to in the gardens this autumn. Exploring where she first developed her love for horticulture to Waterperry’s upcoming seasonal garden events, take a seat and join us, as we spend 5 minutes talking all things gardening with Head Gardener, Pat Havers.
When did you first develop an interest in gardening and what do you think drives your passion for horticulture?
My first interest in horticulture came from my mum who used to grow vegetables in our back garden which I loved to help with. Also a neighbour used to let me spend time with her and was always sending me home with a clump of plants from her garden that I used to cherish. My mum also used to work at Waterperry Gardens when I was a child and would take me to work with her where I would sleep in the pram or on odd occasions, in a wheelbarrow (there is photographic evidence of that!). I was very lucky to be around the great ladies of Horticulture like Beatrix Havergal, Valerie Finnis, Mary Spiller, Joan Stokes and Jean Manger. I don’t think I retained any horticultural knowledge from that time but it definitely shaped my path into it.
The thing that drives my passion in horticulture is wanting to keep the gardens looking lovely and keeping up the traditions that I have been taught by the great ladies that have gone before me.
What do you enjoy the most about being Head Gardener at the beautiful Waterperry Gardens?
I enjoy every day in the gardens as no two are the same. I love the changing of the seasons, creating new areas and maintaining established borders like the herbaceous border. I enjoy working with my team without whom I couldn’t look after these gardens.
With the changing of the seasons, what have been the main priorities when preparing the gardens at Waterperry for the upcoming autumn/winter months?
Like the fashion industry, we are always thinking a couple of seasons ahead. We are just about to plant two thousand fritillaries (which we do every autumn), bluebells and daffodils. We have just made plans for changes on the border which we will do in the spring but if we didn’t make a plan now, chances are we would forget something important, so it’s all written down! I have already ordered seeds for the cutting garden and herbaceous for the borders.
For someone looking to prepare their garden for autumn, what would be a few of your top Head Gardener tips?
Make sure if you cut down herbaceous, do it low enough so that you don’t hurt your hands when weeding next year. Raise the mower levels when mowing grass. Take roses and buddleja down a third to stop wind rock. Also make sure all machinery is cleaned when putting away for winter.
Have you noticed any current horticultural trends circulating in the gardening community at the moment?
The biggest horticultural trend we have seen this year is re-wilding, but we have been doing this for many years at Waterperry. I like the difference between the formal parts of the gardens and the much looser, wilder areas.
What are your favourite ways of adding a personal touch to the garden?
At Waterperry, the gardens contain a number of authentic elements and landscaped sections such as the stunning walled garden. Which space or feature do you adore the most and why?
I think my favourite place in the gardens is standing on the stone bridge looking at the herbaceous border on one side and the river on the other side. I think I take a photo of those views on a weekly basis.
With Waterperry Gardens frequently hosting a number of exciting events, what has been your top event that you’ve been involved in so far?
We are very lucky to always have lots of things going on in the gardens but my favourite events are always garden related. We hosted the ‘Rose of the Year’ this year and the rare plant fair is here every June. The gardens will be also be featured too on the second series of ‘Make it at Market’ on BBC1, hopefully on screen November or beginning of next year.
As the busy autumn season is now upon us, are you currently working on any garden projects that you could give us a sneak peek into?
We have had a busy year of projects this year with the re-planting of the rose garden and the ongoing work on the new winter walk. Projects for this autumn and winter are the Mediterranean border and a huge plant up of Daffodils in the arboretum, which will look amazing in spring.
If you had to pick your favourite garden bloom what would you choose and why?
It is really hard to pick just one bloom but I think I’m a cottage garden girl and I love everything herbaceous. But then I also love spring bulbs, Clematis and Dahlias.
Last but not least, what do you enjoy the most about this time of year within the garden?
Autumn is lovely in the gardens. The light levels, the fruit on the trees, the herbaceous border still flowering profusely, the smell of the gardens and the robins that follow us around as we start tidying up around the estate.