Meet The Head Gardener...

Chris Crowder  Dip.Hort.(Kew)  F.I.Hort.

How big is the garden and what are its main features?
There are about eight acres of wonderful garden at Levens Hall including the ancient topiary with spectacular seasonal underplanting and the magnificent double herbaceous borders. There are also wall borders, a potager and herb garden, a rose garden, a fountain garden, fine lawns, wildflower meadows and a willow labyrinth.
How has the garden developed?
Laid out in the 1690s, the garden retains much of the original design, yet each new generation works within that historic framework to create beautiful contemporary plantings.
What makes the garden special?
Its partly a sense of continuity- three centuries of garden making make it a magical place. It is also the feeling of enjoyment and excitement that is conveyed through the continuing evolution of colour and planting. 
How many people work in the garden?
There is a core team of four, ably assisted by students and a kind group of garden volunteers who enjoy working and learning in such beautiful surroundings.
How long have you worked at Levens Hall and where were you before? 
I have been the Head Gardener at Levens Hall for twenty five years now. I left school at sixteen and a parks apprenticeship, Kew and my own business made up my background.
How did you train for your work?
I picked up the feel for growing plants as a boy on the family allotment, and ultimately undertook formal training at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. But, if we keep our eyes and mind open we continue to learn every day...
Are there exciting plans for the garden?
Every year we look to refresh the plantings with new species and work through new colour schemes and combinations. We are also looking forward to renewing the pattern of low hedging throughout the garden. All 1.7km of it!
What is your favourite time of year at Levens Hall? 
I am always amazed in early spring when those tiny dust like seeds start to germinate and new life begins. Then again, in early summer when those imagined plantings turn into reality. 
Do you have time for a garden of your own?
My wife fortunately enjoys looking after our own small plot. But, as our house is within the main garden at Levens Hall I can always find something to do...
What is your favourite plant?
This changes by the week. Highly bred horticultural masterpieces, wildflowers or weeds are all equally fascinating. Research for writing adds a depth of knowledge for every one.

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