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In this edition of Industry Insiders, we spoke with Head Gardener Andrew Humphris for some expert tips on sowing seeds and to find out a bit more about what is growing this spring at Parham Gardens!
Located within the picturesque scenes of Pulborough, West Sussex, Parham House & Gardens is a true gem of the south. The gardens feature a spectacular four-acre Walled Garden and stunning Pleasure Grounds which were first laid out in the 18th century.

Parham gardens are a natural haven for native wildlife and part of the grounds has been listed as a Site of Special Scientific Interest due to its rich and diverse wildlife who inhabit the grounds; from deer to crickets to songbirds, there is plenty of wildlife to be seen in these stunning grounds.

The garden has had a historic problem with perennial weeds including bindweed and ground elder. During the lockdown of last year when the garden was closed, it was decided to tackle the problem head-on. Many beds were cleared and sprayed. Some will be replanted this spring but others will stay fallow for another season. This opportunity is a great chance to get the garden clean of these weeds and over the coming years, the team will have the exciting job of replanting and returning the garden to be one of the finest in the south.

We spoke with Head Gardener, Andrew Humphris to find out more about the grounds and what is in store for the start of the most exciting gardening season!

When and how did you get into horticulture?
I think it is in my blood. My father John was a Head Gardener at Borde Hill and Sutton Place. I was never pushed into horticulture, there just happened to be a job as a trainee gardener at a private garden when I left school and I thought I would give it a go as I wanted to do something outside. I just loved it from the start and still to this day it gives me great pleasure to create something beautiful that people enjoy.

What does a typical day look like for you at Parham Gardens?
Meeting with the gardeners and setting up the day, checking emails and hopefully getting out to work in the garden with the others.

What has been your most rewarding project within horticulture?
At the last garden I was at we built a garden from almost nothing, which was rewarding but overall it is just the thrill of enhancing a garden to fulfil its potential. Creating a new border and maintaining it and being critical about it to keep it looking great is one of the most rewarding things. Seeing a plant fulfil its potential and look happy and healthy and in the right place also gives me great pleasure.

What do you enjoy most about the gardens here?
The atmosphere and setting of this historic garden are so special. The display glasshouse is stunning. I love herbaceous borders and there are plenty here and we will be working hard to enhance and re-invigorate them. Gardens are made by people and to have such enthusiastic owners and staff is wonderful.

What have you been planting and will there be any new plant additions for 2021?

At the moment it is all about ground preparation and trying to get the ground clean. There has been a historic problem in the garden of bindweed and ground elder which we are trying to tackle head-on. We are going to be planting gladioli for cut flowers and also roses and clematis. We then hope to replant the white border this spring.

Do you have any top tips for sowing seeds?

Use a seed and cutting compost and firm well into a pot or tray. Water thoroughly before sowing and allow to drain. Sow seed and lightly cover with more compost or vermiculite. Always check the seed packet for specific instructions. If putting in a glasshouse or warm place cover with a piece of newspaper which stops the surface from drying out and allows light through.

What are your top tips for spring gardening?
Ensure you have the garden clean and tidy coming into the spring, it will make life a lot easier for the rest of the year. Apply mulch now to keep weeds down and to retain moisture in the soil through the summer.

What are your favourite go-to gardening products to use and why?
Felco secateurs are always with me for pruning or cutting back herbaceous plants. Very rare a day goes by without using them. Stainless steel border fork for weeding and de-compacting soil along with bucket and wheelbarrow of course. In recent years the tripod ladder has been a revelation. Light, sturdy and easy to use.

What advice would you give to a new gardener?
Patience is key, enjoy the successes and don’t worry too much about the failures. Gardening is a long learning curve and as you gain more experience the failures become less. You never stop learning.

Plan your visit
The grounds are currently closed to the public due to the current lockdown restrictions in the UK, so keep an eye on the Parham House & Gardens website and social media pages via the links below.

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