Jessica Evans- Head Gardener at Knightshayes

We interviewed Jessica Evans, head gardener at Knightshayes Court, a National Trust garden in Tiverton.

What do you love about the garden at Knightshayes?

I was drawn by the plant collection- one of the largest in the National Trust.  There’s an amazing tree collection, a beautiful woodland garden that extends to over 20 acres and a fantastic 2.5 acre walled garden that provides vegetables for the kitchen onsite and is for sale to visitors.

What does your job involve?

The job of any gardener is very varied.  We need to understand the science behind horticulture as well as having an eye for beauty.  I’m lucky to be involved across the whole garden but I have a great team and need to realise where I’m not the strongest person at something.

What are you favourite plants or plant combinations at Knightshayes?

The woodland garden in autumn is beautiful thanks to the diverse collection of trees, including a lot of acers.  In spring the woodland garden is full of colour from our large collections of rhododendrons, camellias, magnolias and spring bulbs and the walled garden is exciting then too as it quickly fills up with the crops for the season.

We hear you worked for Monty Don.  Lucky you! How was that?

I worked at Longmeadow for just under two years, it was a great job where I learnt a lot.  It is a beautiful garden and was at times challenging to care for but a good challenge and a lovely family to work for.

What are your top gardening tips?

I can be a bit too excited and start too many things at once, especially at this time of year when you can lift and divide and make changes to borders.  Make sure if you are planning border work that you have thought it through so that you can complete the work quickly and aren’t trying to do it whilst also getting the hedges cut, the grass cut and tender plants bought in.  There is always next year in a garden.

What’s your vision for Knightshayes?

We plan to propagate plants more and boost the health and diversity of the plant collection again.  We have been experimenting with green manures in the walled garden and talked about saving more seed in the future.  I don’t believe gardens should be treated as museums as things grow and change and die.  Changes are inevitable and exciting and can be done respectfully and smartly without damaging the garden overall.  Knightshayes was created as a garden where the owners were willing to experiment and grow new things but also to make changes when they felt necessary, so we can continue in that spirit.