Staff Garden Staff Ben Jones - Gardener "I grew up in a creative, artistic family in West Penwith, Cornwall. I spent my late teens and twenties traveling and working on farms and gardens across the world. I later completed a degree in Conservation Studies at City & Guilds of London Art School. I was then selected for a sculpture conservation traineeship at Tate. After my traineeship I returned to Cornwall and set up a picture framing and conservation studio with my wife in Penzance. We bought our first house and with that came the first real garden of my own. I soon realised how much I missed working with my hands in the earth and watching my hard work flower and grow. I applied for the Christopher Lloyd Scholarship at Great Dixter, and I was thrilled when I was awarded the place. I was the scholar between 2018-2019. During this time my family and I and lived in a cottage on site. It was a magical year for us all, especially my son who had just learnt to walk and had Great Dixter as his playground to explore. After my scholarship I have been fortunate to stay on as part of the gardening team. I have not only learnt a huge amount about gardening and horticulture since being here, but I have also made great friends. Great Dixter is not just a wonderful garden it is also a great family which extends around the world and includes all of the benefactors, trusties & volunteers that help to make the place so special. I feel incredibly proud to be part of this family." Agnes Ladjevardi- Christopher Lloyd Scholar 2020-21 Agnes previously worked as a landscape architect in design firms in Philadelphia, USA and Lyon, France. She worked on a range of projects, from large scale master plans to social housing estate repurposing to new public urban spaces. As part of this work, Agnes spent much time on construction sites both overseeing projects and discussing with landscape contractors the challenges of soil provision, plant maintenance and plant success and failures. These experiences led Agnes to desire a closer relationship to plants, as well as a deeper understanding of the systems that can support their health. She joins us as Christopher Lloyd Scholar for a year where she lives, works and learns from the gardeners. "I am curious to get to know plants more intimately-- not just at their peak but in their full cycle, from new buds to decay. I am also excited to work through planting design differently: not from a top-down, scaled plan view, but from the ground plane at 1:1." Colin Stewart- Ruth Borun Scholar 2021-22 "While I initially trained as an illustrator, my interest in gardens and gardening has been ever-present, one of my earliest memories being sowing apple pips in the windows of our top floor Glasgow tenement flat. Much later, fascinated by the creativity and inventiveness of local plots, I wrote my undergraduate dissertation about front gardens and identity in south east London, before acquiring an allotment and rekindling my love of hands-on gardening. I went on to work and study with the National Trust for Scotland at Threave Garden, then spent a further year at Cambridge University Botanic Garden.I find the layered, high intensity approach to planting at Great Dixter exhilarating, and I’m keen to learn exactly how this sense of magic is created, sustained and managed through the seasons. I’m also really excited by the recent revelation that this intensively maintained, highly ornamental garden has been proven to support great biodiversity." Fergus Garrett - CEO and Head Gardener "Born in Brighton to an English father and Turkish mother, I spent my formative years in Istanbul Turkey. On returning to the UK I went to school in Brighton and then studied horticulture at Wye College, University of London. I joined Christopher Lloyd as his head gardener in 1993. I have a deep connection with Great Dixter as a result of my relationship with Christopher Lloyd and very much enjoy the interplay between the creative and scientific aspects of horticulture." Graham Hodgson - Gardener "I became one of the gardening team at Dixter in 2010 after a year of volunteering one day a week here. At this time I was running my own successful small garden and garden design business which I had started 4 years earlier and completing RHS horticultural qualifications. Before that I completed a degree and a two year MA at the Royal College Of Art in vehicle design and then worked for Ford as an interior designer and later for a design consultancy. I’m from an art and horticulturally based family, but I escaped the lure of horticulture until it suddenly struck me in my mid 20s. Drawn by its diversity, creative freedom and colourful characters I made the change away from vehicle to garden design." Lewis Bosher- Deputy Head Gardener “I probably have my family to blame for the gardening bug, but I was always a curious child intrigued by plants and their relationship with animals. I’d sometimes be found in the strangest of places, from standing in nettles to get a better look at butterflies and bees to bringing home hundreds of snails as I didn't want the birds to eat them. This path led me to start my studies in agriculture, but it wasn't quite the right fit, more like a right shoe on the wrong foot. Because of this I was encouraged to contact several places but due to only being about fifteen years of age I struggled to find anyone who would give me a chance. This is where Dixter comes in. After receiving a letter from Fergus inviting me over for a chat, I put on my best suit and walked across the field and that same afternoon I was invited to help in the garden. I was taken in like an adopted cat, slightly rough around the edges and impossible to herd, but was overjoyed. I can’t say my mum felt the same about my mud covered suit! A few years passed and I became Fergus's apprentice. The pot displays became my haven and practice ground to better understand not just the plants but shapes, colours , flower to foliage ratios, solid structures and design. Dixter has always kept me on my toes with challenges from conifer only pot displays to creating habitat piles, assisting with the re-design of a border to cross-pollination of hellebores. I’ve always attempted to take on ever challenge that comes my way. In 2014 after an interview on a train in Istanbul while visiting the botanical gardens, Fergus offered me the role of deputy head gardener . It's been over ten years since my journey started with Dixter and I'm still enjoying my time here. I’ve met and been supported by so many wonderful people. I'm still learning so much, and completely enthralled with the place ,the people ,the gardens and the atmosphere: It’s my home away from home and the strangest second family you could ever have." Michael Wachter - Gardener Michael grew up in the countryside of northern Bavaria along the river Main before studying Landscape Architecture near Frankfurt. During that time he met the designer and plantsman Cassian Schmidt who guided his early career towards Plants and their ecological habitats. From there Michael went straight to Great Dixter where he still works as part of the Garden team today. During his time at Great Dixter, Michael travelled all over Europe to study plants within their ecological settings. He has lectured in several countries on topics of Propagation, Design and Horticulture. In 2016 Michael was been part of a gardener exchange with the Tokachi Millennium Forest, Japan funded by Dan Pearson Studio. Besides horticulture, Michael is passionate about wild living and the natural world, ethnobotany as well as ethnozoology. "Great Dixter is a place of endless opportunities. I am ever so thankful for the inspiration, mentorship, guidance and friendship I have received here. I truly consider myself lucky to work with such passionate people on a daily basis" Nursery Staff Ellie Machell- Nursery Trainee 2021-22 Originally from Liverpool, Ellie studied Fine Art in Leeds and worked in museums and galleries before embarking on a career in teaching and outdoor education. Taking the decision to retrain for a career in horticulture, Ellie began by volunteering at Chelsea Physic Garden before training at RBG Kew for two years. “It was an early placement in the Arboretum Nursery at Kew where I first began considering a career in nursery work and propagation. The traineeship at Great Dixter attracted me because of the holistic approach to working with plants’ natural abilities, and combination of art and craft with the science of plant propagation. I'm interested in traditional methods, and using the environment to an advantage in the growing stages and aftercare of plants, whilst having the least negative impact on the environment. Michael Morphy- Nursery Manager Michael arrived at Great Dixter in 1995 and has worked both in the garden and the nursery. After studying at Hadlow College he became assistant nursery manager and worked closely with Kathleen Leighton for many years. In 2011 Kathleen handed over the position of nursery manager to Michael and he has been running the nursery and its team of workers, apprentices and volunteers ever since. Michael has a love of plants and enjoys supporting others to learn more about them. Sophie Cook- Assistant Nursery Manager Sophie is responsible for much of the vegetative propagation within the nursery, making sure that we have enough of these plants to sell to the public. This involves taking cuttings and divisions, glasshouse and coldframe care, and stock bed maintenance. "I started at Great Dixter Nursery as Assistant Nursery Manager in September 2019. My early career was in Fine Art, however I moved over to the sciences when I undertook an Environmental Science degree to learn more about the workings of the natural world. After a spell in academia following my degree, I realised wanted to be outside more so once again became a student when I began an apprenticeship in Horticulture. I studied at Aberglasney gardens and Dyffryn gardens in Wales for three years, after which I spent one year studying plants in the wild in New Zealand, California and the Balklans. I then returned home to the UK to take up the position at Great Dixter Nursery. The part I enjoy most about my job here is that I am allowed the freedom to try out new ways of managing our plant stock, particularly in using non-chemical methods to control pests and diseases. Conservation, Education and Fundraising Staff Carol Joughin - Friends and Fundraising "I came to work at Dixter in 2018 and began as a guide in the House. After a year of all things medieval I joined Linda to look after Friends and fundraising. This is a place like no other and it is a privilege to work with the people who support it. I have a background in organisational development and evidence-based practice and policy in health and social care." Catherine Haydock - Education Officer Catherine started at Great Dixter in 2011 as part of the Heritage Lottery Project, with the task of expanding Great Dixter's audiences. She now works with schools, home education groups, manages a range of adult education activities, looks after volunteer, student and scholar recruitment and runs a bi-weekly toddler group. "I studied Ecology but have worked in outdoor education most of my career and have been fortunate to work at some amazing places including the Royal Botanic Gardens Kew. I think what's kept me here so long, and the reason I love working at Dixter is because it's like being part of an extended family, and that we are always evolving, experimenting, and questioning what we do. It's also a huge privilege getting to see the garden all through the year, and working with such creative people. I think the favourite part of my job is running my toddler group- which has been going for nearly 9 years now. I often think how the garden must feel when you're small- especially the exotic garden when it's at its peak and the sprinklers are all on. As close as you'll ever get to a jungle in Sussex " Linda Jones- Friends Manager "Born in Altrincham, Cheshire during WWII to a horticulturally-trained German mother and a self-taught gardener extraordinaire English father. Apart from sowing a rather successful patch of Canterbury Bells aged about 7, plants did not come into my life until I took a correspondence course in Botany when in the South of France having been bombed out of Beirut. I then did a degree in Plant Science at Kings College London and an incomplete PhD at St Mary’s London. I started work when most people think of retirement, first at the RHS Wisley organising plant trials where I met Christopher Lloyd (as a member of the Floral Trials Committee) and then Fergus Garrett, (who also became a member). When Christopher died, Fergus suggested I come and help make Friends for the Great Dixter Charitable Trust and that is what I have been doing ever since." Estate staff Hayden Bosher - Green Woodworker "I first came Dixter as a voluntary photographer at the Great Dixter plant fair in 2014. I started my training in land-based studies not long after. This is where I found my passion for green woodwork I returned to Dixter for work experience and was asked to help in various areas from the garden to the barn. After my first course finished, Fergus, Lewis and Catherine assisted me in joining a woodland based course in green wood working, environment and conservation. I'm now employed working in our barn helping to create lots of things by hand, from hurdles to benches and on occasion tool handles all from our own woodland." Visitor Services Staff Rachel Deacon- Cleaner "I believe my first interest in Dixter was after meeting the team at the Great Dixter Dachshund Fun Show. I asked about helping out and the next thing I knew I was drawing signs, running with dachshunds and helping with tea. I found myself hooked on the place. My training beforehand was based in animal care and I also did courses in art design and technology. After my first visit a little time passed and I was contacted by Fergus asking if I could help during a symposium. When I arrived I was met by two dachshunds: Conifer and Miscanthus and of course Aaron. He joked that their wagging tales meant I had the job. It was a hard week but great fun. Aaron and Perry showed me everything I needed to know to help care for the house and the treasured memories it holds. After then I was welcomed back on a weekly basis to help care for the house alongside Aaron and the Dachshunds. I’ve met lots of wonderful people, and really do enjoy my days at Dixter!" Seasonal House Guides Adrienne Jarman- House Guide "During a normal afternoon shift I welcome visitors to the House and offer insights into the history of the building, its various occupants through the ages and the wonderful artefacts in the Great Hall, the Parlour and the Solar (my favourite room). I also do special tours for visiting groups in English, French and German. I hold an MA Joint Hons Oxon in German and French. Most of my working life has been spent in the education sector in Germany and the UK. I came to Dixter in 2018 when a position as a German and French speaking guide became available. I have never typed a letter of application so rapidly or with such enthusiasm and have never been so delighted to be offered a job. Great Dixter is a wonderful working environment (even if the House somewhat subject to extremes of heat and cold). It is a true opportunity for lifelong learning – you can never say that you have mastered all there is to know, not least because the House keeps giving up new secrets and the gardens are in constant flux. I love being able to interact with visitors and witness their enjoyment, whether they want an in-depth explanation or just to be left in peace to savour the moment. They in turn often have stories to tell and knowledge to share. For a House Guide the working day ends with a walk along the sublimest of garden paths. It doesn’t get much better…" Christine Browning- House Guide Christine came to Great Dixter after retiring from a career in admin and accountancy . She wanted to pursue her love of history and literature and volunteered with the National Trust. A long standing Guide at Great Dixter then suggested she applied for a vacancy. "There are many joys in this job - the superb historic house, the unique gardens, wonderful people to work with and visitors to meet." John Fewell- House Guide "Originally from London I had a career in Film and TV Post Production. I have been living in East Sussex for 12 years and this will be my 3rd season at Dixter. Last year as the house remained closed I had the opportunity of working in the gardens and nursery assisting the visitors and giving them information about the house and gardens. Over the last few years I have had jobs that involve working with the public. Stewarding at events and Art Gallery invigilation. More recently as a tour manager with a holiday company which has stood me in good stead. I am looking forward to another season with the rest of the team." Jo Mcleod- House Guide "I absolutely love showing people around the house there is so much history associated with it. I was thrilled when I saw the advert a couple of years ago wanting more guides and was lucky Nicky chose me! I feel very privileged to work there and have made some great friends now- it’s like working for a happy family! You meet some very interesting people from all over the world." Lisa Hopper - House Guide Lisa has been a House Guide since April 2019 providing a potted history of Great Dixter House to both small and large tour groups, working alongside other house guides from April - October each year. "My family have been in Northiam for over 100 years, so I have always been aware of Dixter. I moved back into Northiam in 2016 and was seeking another place of work alongside my therapy business. Working at Dixter was a perfect fit as I have always loved its' atmosphere and gardens and I live in the same lane! When not at Dixter, I work from home both as a professional Bowen technique therapist focussing mainly on back pain and also producing artworks which are mainly wildlife focussed and I have just launched an Etsy shop for these. Dixter is truly a beautiful place but I think it also has this great energy about it too. Everyone who works there seems to truly enjoy being there and so I always feel there is a great sense of focus, high energy and true friendliness." Lorraine Ford- House Guide "I have worked as a House Guide since 2019 but have volunteered at Great Dixter for many years, mainly at the Spring and Autumn Plant Fairs, serving tea, coffee and generous slices of homemade cake. I love being part of the team of house guides, telling our visitors about this fascinating and historic house." Shelly Swain- House Guide Shelly is a house guide and also helps Aaron in the house, looking after the furniture and antiques. Before arriving at Dixter, Shelly worked as a professional actor. After graduating from RADA she trod the boards in theatres all over the country, including seasons at the Royal Shakespeare Company and the National Theatre, as well as appearing on television and in film. Shelly has also worked as a communications director for several charities and enjoyed campaigning on their behalf as a spokesperson in Parliament and the media. She also enjoys reading and writing poetry. "Having spent recent years looking after my mother and often visiting Dixter, it will always be a very special place to me; it has also inspired me to create my own vegetable and wildlife garden."