Lost Gardens of Heligan Entrance to Flower Garden CROPPED

Day in the life of head gardener at Lost Gardens of Heligan

Date Posted: 30 Sep 2021

Alasdair Moore joined the team at The Lost Gardens of Heligan back in 2018 as head of gardens and estate. After three years as the horticulture manager at Duchy of Cornwall Nursery, he began a new chapter in south Cornwall joining the Heligan family.

With a Kew Diploma in Botanic Garden Management, Alasdair has led horticultural tours far beyond Cornish land, spending time in South Africa, Japan, China and the French Riviera. Also a keen writer, Alasdair has provided horticultural content for The Independent and The Telegraph. Alasdair shares with the Great Cornwall Guide his typical day looking after 200 acres of some of the finest gardens in England…

5.45am Alarm goes off, and I doze through Farming Today in bed.
6am Time to get out of bed, make a flagon of tea, followed by porridge.
7am I drive to Heligan along the old Pentewan Road – just love the view across to Penare Point from above Pentewan.
7.30am Walk to office, say good morning to Violet and Mr Finch, our splendid Golden Guernsey Goats and try not to take another photo of dahlias.
7.43am Take three photos of dahlias.
8am Check in with Nicola our head gardener, Mark head of estate and the gardens and estate team on the day ahead. Always a bit of buzz in the yard at the start of the day with teams in huddles, sorting out tools and tasks.
8.15am Get ahead with my admin, checking emails etc.
9.15am Planning discussion with Nicola, which involves a walk through Sikkim to view the 150 year old rhododendrons leaning wearily on our 250 year old garden wall. We do some strategic pruning. I also check in on other projects with Andy, head of maintenance. Currently we’re refurbishing the Peach House in the Flower Garden, with some of the peaches enjoying the fresh air for the first time in twenty years.
11am Coffee, followed by a bit of research in the Heligan Library on 19th century attitudes to the use of green manures in kitchen gardens. More agricultural than horticultural usage it seems but some very similar principles were employed in walled gardens so all is possible. Leave library wondering about spinach.
Midday Head over to West Lawn to meet head of livestock, Pip (also a vet) and Louis who leads on our grazing rotation. Louis has devised a cunning way of grazing Heligan’s rare breed pigs to try and remove the need for supplementary feeding, other than veg rejected by both chefs and gardeners. Our Berkshire sows, Thelma and Louise, optimistically snuffle by with a few snorts.
12.30pm Meet with Mark to decide about next year’s wildflower crop in Valentines field. Clouds of finches drift by, feeding on corn marigold seed. We move off of to look at an elderly monkey puzzle tree which might need some work.
1.30pm Nat head of hospitality and an incredible chef, asks me to head up to the kitchen for a tasting. She has been working on a new recipe… ice cream. It is delicious but I have no idea what flavour it is… turns out to be potato. Potato is my favourite vegetable, now my favourite ice cream.
2.30pm Head off site to my favourite local nursery, Treseders. The Treseder family have been providing the gardens at Heligan with plants since the 19th century. There are a few areas in the Jungle that need refreshing and so I’m in the market for some serious chlorophyll. Treseders’ sell one of my all-time favourite plants Cordyline indivisa. Known to be a bit temperamental but perfect for Heligan’s Jungle.
4.30pm Back at Heligan. Plants safely placed in the nursery for the time being. Crack on with a few more emails.
5.15pm Leave the office, photograph dahlias and bid farewell to Violet and Mr Finch.
6pm Back home in Lostwithiel with a glass of beer in the garden.


In 2022 Lost Gardens of Heligan celebrates 30 years since discovery by Sir Tim Smit

In 2022 Lost Gardens of Heligan celebrates 30 years since discovery by Sir Tim Smit

Alisdair Moore GOH
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