The Eden Project, the world-famous garden in Cornwall, is looking for a new head gardener. Horticultural expertise, of course, is a requirement, but so is the ability to manage people – and pests.
Indeed, reading between the lines of the job description, this is probably not a suitable role if you are the sort of head gardener who regards the public as a bit of a nuisance.
The successful applicant will be in charge of a 40-strong team at the 35-acre home of the Rainforest and Mediterranean Biomes near St Austell, created by Sir Tim Smit and opened in 2001.
Gordon Seabright, director of the Eden Project, described the job as one of the most exciting and challenging in the world of horticulture. He said: “The winning candidate will be passionate about horticulture and leading a team that can deliver world-class standards. He or she will play a key role in developing the horticultural landscape at Eden in conjunction with our core values and objectives, moving Eden forward to be fit and successful for the decades to come.”
He added: “With the 15th anniversary of the first plantings approaching, Eden has set itself big new challenges to promote our great garden. As the Eden garden matures and develops, we want to attract many more people to the wider reaches of the outdoors and draw in more traditional garden visitors.”
What this means, in practical terms, is that the winning candidate will be someone who is flexible and pragmatic, who is capable of, and enthusiastic about, managing change – something that many people, not just gardeners, find difficult.
Tim Miles, head gardener at the Cotswold Wildlife Park near Burford, agrees. Miles has a Cornish background, and worked at the Lost Gardens of Heligan before joining the Cotswold zoo. He said: “This is a wonderful opportunity for someone, but there are challenges with a job like this. It is quite different to most National Trust or English Heritage gardens, which are more about preserving what is already there.
“At somewhere like the Eden Project, you need constantly to reinvent yourself if you want visitors – especially the younger ones – to go back on a regular basis. You have to be aware that you are planting for the public, who will have no hesitation in taking a ‘desire line’ across your planting if it gets them somewhere faster.You have to be able to think on your feet, to work with all the other projects that are going on. It will be important to find someone with good management experience.”
What about the horticulture? With all those rare plants to look after, won’t applicants need to be specialists in exotic planting?
Actually, said Miles, one of the biggest challenges at Eden has been learning how to manage pests in the two huge biomes, rather than the plants which have a tailor-made environment.
The post of head of gardens is vacant due to the departure of Eden’s head of horticulture Don Murray, who is returning to Scotland to take up the new role of head of island landscapes and horticulture with Mount Stuart Trust on the Isle of Bute.
Murray, whose speciality is canopy science, has been at Eden almost since the beginning and one of his pet projects has been the canopy walkway in the rainforest biome, where members of the public can climb up to get closer to the tops of the trees.
Jellyfish tree (Medusagyne oppositifolia): one of the world’s rarest plant species, it is found only on Mahe Island in the Seychelles, where there are fewer than 30 plants. The female reproductive parts resemble the tentacles of a jellyfish, hence the nickname, or the snake-like hair of Medusa, hence the botanical name.
Macadamia (Macadamia integrifolia): not only is the macadamia nut delicious, but it could hold the key to eternal youth; the nut oil is rich in palmitoleic acid, which is found in young people’s skin.
Cola (Cola nitida): a native of West Africa, where cola nuts are used as currency to settle marital disputes or divorce. The seeds contain caffeine, and are widely used as a stimulant.
Titan arum (Amorphophallus titanum): one of the most popular plants with visitors to the Eden Project, it flowers only once, for 48 hours, and smells of rotting meat, hence its common name of ‘corpse flower’.
This year’s plant is already 5ft 5in and growing at a rate of 10cms per day.Reuse content