Wednesday, 27 June 2012


THE award-winning Sub Tropical Gardens at Abbotsbury are widely recognised for their outstanding horticultural, historical and public appeal. Assistant head gardener Tim Newman has worked in the gardens for two years and is well placed to explain why so many visitors come to explore the woodland walks and gardens. As well as being a qualified horticulturalist he is also a ‘budding’ artist with a special interest in botanical drawing. Tim is 37 years old and lives near Evershot.

HOW did you get into this job?
I was self-employed in Somerset as a gardener but I decided I wanted to work in a garden that had some meaning behind it. So, I went off to New Zealand and worked in Christchurch Botanic Gardens. When I came back, I worked as a volunteer at Bristol Botanic Gardens and gained more experience, so when this job came up I had all the relevant experience.

HOW did the sub-tropical gardens come to be here?
They began life as a walled kitchen garden within the Earl of Ilchester's estate back in the 1700s. Then during the 1800s successive Earls began travelling abroad as diplomats. The fourth Earl in particular was a keen botanist so he brought back specimens from all over the world and that’s how the sub-tropical collection got started.

WHY do the gardens flourish here in Dorset?
Well the climate in this particular spot is ideal. There is warm sea air and a blanket of evergreen oaks that help keep the warmth in plus we’re in a bit of a rain shadow so it isn’t too wet. So really we’ve got a mini Mediterranean climate going on.

WHAT is a typical working day like for you?
We start at 8am, check our areas and carry out any noisy or disruptive work before 10am, when the gates open to the public. Then I’ll liaise with the curator and the team and decide what needs to be done. 

THE gardens recently won an award, what was that for?
Yes, this year we won the 2012 Garden of the Year Award which is sponsored by Christies International and The Historic Houses Association. It’s a very prestigious award that’s been going for 28 years and it identifies us as a national treasure which is obviously a huge compliment.

WHAT’S the most rewarding aspect of your job?
It’s a really good team to work with and its great coming in each day knowing that there’ll be something different and interesting to do and see; something new comes in to flower, you know every year that it’s going to come round again but somehow it’s still always a surprise. It’s interesting being able to step into this sub-tropical world every day, and then step out of it back into the surrounding native flora and fauna – this is a bit of an oasis.

WHAT’S in bloom right now?
At the moment the Rhododendron luteum is in bloom. It’s a bright yellow flower with a lovely fragrance.

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