The National Trust’s joint longest-serving gardener will retire from Lanhydrock in Cornwall this month after 45 years of service.
Tommy Teagle has worked for the Trust at Lanhydrock since July 1976, and under his leadership the garden has increased the magnificent late Victorian estate’s magnolia collection and reimagined the extensive parterre with a pollinator-friendly planting scheme.
Tommy shares the distinction of longest-serving National Trust gardener with Michael Ridsdale, who retired from the world-famous Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal Water Garden in North Yorkshire last autumn.
Starting as a gardener at Lanhydrock fresh out of sixth form on a job creation scheme, Tommy stayed on to become Assistant Head Gardener and then Head Gardener since 1993.
Tommy said: “I was brought up on a farm and my father and grandfather were keen gardeners, so it was in my blood. Lanhydrock is a special place, with its formal garden, herbaceous borders and superb plant collection. There is always something to find in flower. One of my favourite things about the garden is the formality near the main house, but also the higher garden where there are fantastic views.
“The magnolia collection is rather special, we have an amazing collection of them, and you can normally find one in bloom in every month throughout the year.”
The present garden at Lanhydrock was established in the late Victorian period. Above the formal parterres paths lead through a semi-formal woodland landscape, planted with stands of rhododendrons, camellias and magnolias that put on a dazzling spring show.
One key project for Tommy was reimagining the garden’s 20 square-metre parterre with a completely new bee-friendly planting scheme – the first time the scheme had changed in 30 years.
Inspired by a 1903 photograph of the parterre, Tommy and his team removed the pure begonia bedding and created a tapestry of plants attractive to pollinators, including Salvia farinacea ‘Midnight Candle’, Nemesia ‘Wisley Vanilla’ and Alstroemeria Indian Summer ‘Tesronto’.
The National Trust’s Head of Gardens & Parklands, Andy Jasper, said: “Tommy has set a high standard, shaping Lanhydrock into one of the most important gardens in the south west and the UK. He’s also been incredibly influential on the lives of so many horticulturists and volunteers, and I know his approach and attitude will continue to influence all those who have worked and trained with him.
“In today’s world, these sorts of longstanding careers are going to become increasingly rare. They are something certainly worth celebrating – for me it is so important for gardens to have this kind of consistency of management, care and love, that can be passed down from generation to generation. Careers like Tommy’s are such an important part of the continuum of horticultural heritage.”
Tommy continued: “After a long and happy career, I’m going to miss my team of fantastic gardeners here. I have worked with them all for over 35 years and with one for 45 years and I will greatly miss their camaraderie and work ethic.
“I would like to say how good my team are and the high standards they set for themselves, which has contributed to Lanhydrock being so superbly presented for our visitors.”
The team at Lanhydrock have started the search for a new Head Gardener and wish Tommy all the best for his retirement.