THE HEADS UP:
TROY SCOTT SMITH Continuing our mini-series meeting some of the region’s best head gardeners, we rock up at Iford Manor, where the recently arrived Troy Scott Smith has big plans Words by Nick Woodhouse, photos by Iford Manor
t was Troy Scott Smith’s first week as head gardener at Iford Manor when we first spoke about his plans for its gardens. So it was no huge surprise that he was up a ladder at the time; there were things to do. On this occasion, it was retraining the famed wisteria that graces the front of the property, following a recent and unwelcome storm. Originally from Yorkshire, Troy recently moved to the area with his wife Anne and two children, Rowan and Maiwen, to take up this new post. But Troy is no stranger to Bath; his
often walk my dog along the river at Iford. Sometimes I would see John Hignett and we would talk about the work he was currently undertaking here. Other times, I would visit as part of the Professional Gardeners’ Guild trips, each time fascinated by the connection to the great garden designer Harold Peto. The area has always been rich in gardens and garden enthusiasts, so I continued to visit the area when I was working at Sissinghurst, joined by a garden designer friend over from Italy. I’d bought a Morris Minor in Bath and would return each year to have it serviced, staying for a week in Bradford on Avon as a base for my garden visits.
“I’m hoping to work more with local schools and start a volunteer programme” first head gardener role was, in fact, just down the road at The Courts Garden in Holt [see page 38 and page 96 this issue for more], where he held the position from 1997 to 2004. In that time, Troy and his team increased visitor numbers from 9,000 to 50,000, and introduced a practical and classroombased garden design course. For the last six years however, he’s been head-gardener at Sissinghurst, most recently working on the Delos Project alongside renowned garden designer Dan Pearson. This extraordinary conservation plan has re-interpreted an area of the garden that was left uncompleted by its former owners, Vita Sackville-West and Harold Nicholson. I was intrigued to find out what drew Troy back to this area and what he’s planned for the Harold Peto gardens at Iford. So, Troy, how well did you know Iford before taking on the head gardener role?
I’ve probably known the gardens since 1995. When I was working at The Courts, I would
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Have you already started making plans for changes here at Iford?
Yes; in fact, that process started a while back. In the run up to starting at Iford, I visited the gardens once a month for six months. You can’t fast-track seasons, so the visits provided the perfect opportunity to start formulating ideas. We’re currently working on a plan for the gardens that takes us to 2028. This involves opening new areas and taking on more resources. It’s a huge commitment from owners Marianne and William, but one that we hope will make people feel even more welcome here, particularly younger audiences. I really enjoy sharing and teaching, so am hoping to work more with local schools and to start a volunteer programme. Sometimes it’s not enough just to garden; why do this if not to share?
The volunteer programme sounds interesting. How will that work?
We’re hoping to make it open to everyone, of any age and with any skill set. We’ll be looking for help not just with gardening but also with tasks such as propagation, labelling and carpentry. We’d also like to nurture those
looking to start a career in horticulture, giving the necessary experience, support and advice they’ll need, in a hands-on environment. And who works alongside you on the regular team?
Shane has been at Iford for a few years now, having started as an apprentice joiner. Marianne and William spotted his talent and then offered him a role in the gardens. I’m just as impressed, and am keen to work closely with him to help him progress and increase his skill set further. Ultimately, we’d like a full-time team of four. Finally, what’s the first big project on your to-do list here?
I’m starting work soon on making the main glasshouse and nursery work better, and improving both the efficiency and ergonomics of the tool shed. Then we’ll move on to bulb planting from September and bare root planting of fruit trees, roses and hedgerows over winter. With that in place, we’ll then start work on the two courtyards, improving the garden’s arrival points. We’ll be working alongside the planned building projects, which include the underpinning of the cloister, the re-building of the summerhouse at the end of the great terrace and next April’s completion of the barn, offering both a café and a welcome area for visitors. For more, www.ifordmanor.co.uk
Nick Woodhouse is the co-director of interior and garden design company Woodhouse & Law on 4 George’s Place, Bathwick Hill, Bath; 01225 428072; www.woodhouseandlaw.co.uk