Wendy Bridgett is the head gardener at Oakfield Park. A native of Blaydon on Tyne in the North East of England, Wendy started her career as a head gardener on a large estate in Yorkshire. After spotting a vacancy for a head gardener in Donegal, Wendy moved across the pond to Donegal in September 1999 and has been working in Oakfield Park since. Find out more about her role at Oakfield Park:
What is the closest to a typical day that you can describe?
For me, a typical day at Oakfield Park starts at 8.00am, when I check if any plants need feeding or watering – this needs to be done early in case we get strong sunshine. I then feed the birds as it’s important to attract them into the garden. We have two ponds in the walled garden, so I feed the goldfish and the Koi carp. After this, each day in Oakfield Park can vary quite considerably, depending on the time of year and the projects we are undertaking.
So, it’s a varied role?
It is indeed! A garden never stands still! It will never be the same two years in a row as things outgrow their allotted spaces, and plants self-seed etc. Beds must be weeded, being careful not to pull any seedling you may wish to keep. Pruning is another regular task as plants need to be controlled. Pruning at the right time of year is important for flowering climbers and shrubs. Early in the year we sow a lot of seeds for our vegetable garden and flower displays, we also propagate a lot of trees, shrubs and plants throughout the year. Over the next few weeks, I will be spending a lot of time planting vegetables, flowers and any of our young plants that are big enough to be planted in their final position. At this time of year, we have to be very careful of night time frost with tender plants. I have just finished sowing two wild flower meadows, which the bees love! This year we also planted a hedge maze, so we’re putting the final touches to that ahead of its official opening on the June Bank Holiday weekend.
What plants are your favourites?
It’s hard to choose a favourite as there are so many beautiful plants – each one with something special about them. One of my favourite trees is the Ginkgo Biloba (maidenhair tree) it’s fascinating that it has been found in fossils dating back 270 million years and has such beautiful leaves. We have one of these trees on the side of the drive at Oakfield Park. I also love Eryngium bourgatii (sea Holly) with its silvery blue stems and blue cones; it looks so unusual and thistle-like and reminds me of my childhood spent in Scotland. I love the early flowers of Kerria japonica Pleniflora (bachelor’s buttons) with their bright yellow flowers – a sure sign of spring. I could go on but there all so special!
Where do you get your inspiration about what to plant here?
When planting in a garden, it is always important to look at colours, foliage and textures. You also have to ensure you plant in the right position taking into account soil type, sun, shade etc. Always make sure the plant does not look out of place and your garden seems to flow. I have always loved colours, and I think that love for colours helps me in my planting schemes.
What’s your favourite part of the job?
My favourite part of the job is watching the new seasons come in. Spring been so fresh with new foliage. I also like to see a seedling grow into an adult plant spreading and changing the look of the beds or landscape. I also love the fact that we have planted over 40,000 trees and a vast array of plants in Oakfield Park over the years.
Sunday 20th May was World Bee Day. Can you tell us a little bit about why bees are so important?
Bees are very important for the pollination of plants, playing a part in our food and the food of animals. It’s estimated that one third of the food we consume each day relies on pollination, so it’s crucial for humanity that we preserve bees and other pollinators. They also supply us with honey and wax, so we must always look after our bee population.
For more information visit www.oakfieldpark.com.