A Garden is a Place of Happiness – Interview with Sissinghurst House and Garden’s head gardener, Gill Richardson


Gardens are special places for all of us and can bring so much joy to the lives of those who love them. I’ve been lucky enough to work in horticulture for many years now and I’m still constantly amazed by how much everyone loves gardens. From the smallest window box to the largest botanical garden, there’s something that connects us all to our gardens and we love nothing more than seeing people working on their own projects or simply enjoying time spent outdoors.

Why do you think gardening or nature is important to people?

Gill Richardson: Well, I think gardens are just places where people can go to relax and be together. There’s something very calming about being out in the garden, especially if it’s early morning when everything is quiet and tranquil. And there’s also a sense of achievement from having planted something and seeing it grow, so you’ve worked hard for that success. It’s gratifying to bring things from nothing into being—that feeling makes me happy!

What inspired you to get into horticulture?

Gill Richardson: I grew up in the countryside and loved being outside, working with nature and plants. As a child, I wanted to be a farmer or gardener but never thought of it as a career option.

Gill Richardson: What inspired you to get into gardening?

What do you most enjoy about working in horticulture?

As a horticulturist, you are the guardian of the plants and gardens. You get to spend your days outdoors in all weathers. You can be creative with what you do, both inside and outside of work.

You’re surrounded by plants and nature, which is great for people who like working with their hands as well as being around people. Working in horticulture also allows you to work with animals and food—if that’s something that interests you!

What are your biggest tips for gardening beginners?

  • Start small. If you’re just beginning, it’s best to start with a small garden space. This will allow you time to learn about plants and how they grow before becoming overwhelmed by a larger project.
  • Pick the right spot for your garden. Choose an area with full sun exposure and make sure that any existing trees or buildings won’t cast shade over your new plantings.
  • Pick a few plants that work well together and find out what they need in terms of soil, nutrients, water and light conditions; this will help ensure they thrive in their new environment rather than pining away for something else!
  • Make sure you have all the tools needed for planting so that once those seeds have sprouted (or seedlings have been planted), there’s no excuse not to get busy!

What are the main challenges of being a head gardener, and how do you overcome them?

As a head gardener, you need to be able to cope with challenges all year round. There are different techniques required for each season – you can’t just plant things and leave them for months on end, because they won’t look good when they come back into bloom or leaf. You have to keep an eye on things and make sure that everything stays healthy.

In addition to seasonal changes, there is also the challenge of having to keep people happy at all times! Sissinghurst Castle is a historic site owned by the National Trust; it attracts thousands of visitors each year who expect their gardens to look perfect at all times throughout the year (and if they don’t? Well then…)

How has the job changed over time – have you seen the importance of gardens change?

You may be aware that the importance of gardens has changed over time. Gardens have become an important part of our lives and our culture. They are a place where we can go to relax, and they affect our mental health and physical health in a number of ways.

Gardens have always been important places for people who live in cities, but now it seems that even those who don’t live close to nature need gardens as well, because they are essential for their mental well-being. People say that “a garden is a place of happiness”, so if you don’t have one at home yet then maybe now is the moment when you should start thinking about getting one!

If there was one thing everyone should be doing in their garden or home, what would it be?

If there was one thing everyone should be doing in their garden or home, what would it be?

  • A tree. When I started working here we had only five trees and now we have around 60! It’s a great way to create shade, provide habitat and even give you some fruit in the future. There’s nothing better than picking your own apples from an old English apple tree! We love planting fruiting trees like crab apples as they are great for wildlife too – birds love eating the seeds right when they fall off, which helps them build up their energy reserves before winter arrives.
  • A herb garden. Herbs are fantastic because you can use them fresh! They also look beautiful in pots on your windowsill or decking area so you can bring plants into your home year round too (they don’t mind being indoors).

The importance of gardens is ultimately personal, but it is important to find what works for yourself.

The importance of gardens is ultimately personal, but it is important to find what works for yourself. Gardens are important for relaxation, for exercise and mental health, for social interaction and education, for the environment and economy.


Gardens are an important part of our lives, and I hope that you will find your own way to make the most of yours. It can be hard work, but it is also rewarding and fulfilling. Sometimes I feel like gardening is one of those things where you just have to immerse yourself in it if you want to get anything out of it – whether that means getting outside regularly or simply taking time out from your busy schedule! Whatever works for you though, I am sure that gardens will bring something special into your life.

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