Head Gardener Q&A - Pat Havers from Waterperry Gardens, Oxfordshire

Tell us about your journey to head gardener here and what you love about it?

My mum used to work at Waterperry so I’ve been around the garden all my life.  When I became a single mum with two daughters, I was offered a gardening job here and I became Head Gardener 10 years ago.  The main quality needed is patience - with plants, the weather, people and wildlife – which can be challenging but we try to live in harmony together.

What do you love most about the garden at Waterperry?

I love the fact there is an air of serenity and calmness.  My favourite spots are by the river - it’s my go-to place as it’s so peaceful.  My favourite time in the garden is early morning on a summer’s day before anyone else arrives.  (I do also like chatting to visitors though and have met lots of lovely people through the gardens.)

What is happening at the time of year?

I love Spring in the garden, when everything is full of promise.  It’s probably the busiest time of the year with pruning, weeding, feeding, mulching and mowing.  The herbaceous border is ready to go with a little bit of last-minute replacing of anchusas, lupins and plants that have died over winter.  We make notes through each season for any lifting, dividing and moving in early spring.  I also stake the border with hazel, which is a long held Waterperry tradition - staking needs to be in early so that plants can grow through and it looks natural.

What Waterperry plants and combinations can you recommend?

We grow lots of asters (some of which have been renamed Symphotrichum) and we have about 98 varieties, with 42 different ones on the herbaceous border alone.  Aster × frikartii 'Mönch',  Aster amellus 'King George' and Symphyotrichum novae-angliae 'Helen Picton' are really easy asters to look after.  My favourite phlox is 'Blue Paradise’ and a lovely combination on the border is Lupin 'Chandelier', purple alliums and Rosa 'Crimson Conquest.'