Name Kevin Barnett
Experience: After a career in public service, I retrained and studied a RHS advanced certificate in Horticulture and a Foundation degree in Garden Design at Sparsholt College. I have been a professional gardener for nine years.
What’s your gardening specialty?
My specialties are probably planting combinations and garden design. Pruning is also a specialty and something I enjoy. I love creating plant shape and structure and seeing how it grows to fit into the wider, overall visual structure of the garden.
What’s your favourite flower?
Now there’s a question? I don’t have a specific flower – I enjoy most perennials. However, Gaura Lindheimeri ‘Whirling Butterflies’ comes close to being top for its ability to provide airiness, height and structure to a space, as well as a translucence through its stems and flowers.
What’s your favourite shrub?
Ceratostigma willmottianum has a lovely blue flower with a green/ brown leaf. Also Abelia grandiflora which flowers later in the summer, with a lovely delicate pinky white flower.
What’s your favourite grass?
Molinia caerulea ‘transparent’ It is a lofty tall grass with flower spikes which give a translucent visual effect through them. It’s very calming to watch grasses sway in the breeze.
What’s the best thing about being a gardener?
Most definitely the creation of a visual ‘picture’ and the fact that you can start with a new border or garden space, which is like an artists blank canvass where the plants and flowers are the paints which merge and transform through the seasons. It is also rewarding to hear visitors exclaim ‘wow’ upon entering the Walled Garden from the tearoom and of course, the satisfaction of always leaving a garden looking better than when you arrived.
Top tip for a troubleshooting issue
Pruning: Prune after flowering and keep it simple. Remove the dead, diseased / dying and crossing stems.
What’s special about Houghton Lodge Gardens?
The idyllic setting on the River Test, the variety of the different areas of the garden and the formal informality! I love the meadow in early summer with the tall grass and paths running through.
What are you looking forward to for the 2017 season across the garden?
I think the gardens are looking their best this year and I am excited to see the continued change and establishment of new plants. The team has worked very hard over the winter and we are all excited to see our efforts burst into bloom across the garden.