Posted 12th Apr 2016
In celebration of National Gardening Week and with this year marking the 150th anniversary of Beatrix Potter, we meet gardener Pete Tasker who tells us what it's like to look after Beatrix Potter's garden at Hill Top, her beloved farmhouse in Cumbria
How long have you been the gardener at Hill Top?
I’ve been the Hill Top gardener for 27 years, but before that I worked at the Royal Botanic Gardens Kew for three years.
What is the biggest gardening challenge you've had at Hill Top?
There are many challenges to gardening at Hill Top, including an abundance of rain and an equal abundance of slugs and snails, but the one that frustrates me most is rabbits! Being surrounded by open countryside means that it’s a constant struggle to keep them out of the garden and once they get in it’s almost impossible to persuade them to leave, even with the help of my whippet, Florence. Seeing a newly planted row of carefully nurtured cabbage plants nibbled back to stumps overnight is enough to drive any gardener to despair. Needless to say, I have a great deal of sympathy for a certain Mr McGregor!
What is the most satisfying part of the job?
I love being outdoors every day and watching the seasons change. I also really enjoy sharing my work with the many thousands of visitors who come to Hill Top every year. A surprising number of children who visit the garden have never seen vegetables growing in the ground and it’s lovely to show them where their food really comes from.
What size is the land you have to cover at Hill Top?
By National Trust standards, the garden at Hill Top is tiny and covers no more than half an acre, but it’s quite intensively planted so there’s always something to do.
How far do you go to be green and eco-friendly in what you do at Hill Top?
I don’t use any pesticides or artificial fertiliser and just a tiny bit of weed killer for persistent perennial weeds. I treat slugs using a biological control and hand-pick snails or leave them to the thrushes. I stopped spraying roses for greenfly and blackspot many years ago and haven’t really noticed much difference.
Finally, with this year marking the 150th birthday of Beatrix Potter, what does the year ahead hold?
It’s going to be a busy year for everyone at Hill Top with lots of visitors, but it’s a great chance to show off how wonderful Hill Top is and talk about Beatrix Potter’s life and her amazing Lake District legacy.
Images courtesy of © National Trust Images