Meet the team on St Michael's Mount
09 December 2019
Posted 09 December 2019
Earlier this year, the job role of Head Gardener on St Michael's Mount went viral, with applications coming in from all over the world - and the candidate who secured the role, our Assistant Head Gardener, Darren Little
Please tell us a little bit about your history on the island?
I was brought up on the island from birth and spent my childhood roaming the island and making most of the available space around me, from water activities to climbing trees. When I left school, I started a career in Horticulture at the age of 16. I then moved off the island to further my career in gardening where I attended a horticulture college working towards various qualifications. I worked at a few local gardens and nurseries to gain further experience. I also had the opportunity to be a teaching assistant at college, teaching NVQ in Horticulture, then became an internal accessor for NVQ. Then in 2000 I was approached by St Michael’s Mount to return as a gardener and to live back on the island.
What does your job role entail?
I am responsible for managing the gardens and grounds, ensuring that all tasks are completed to the highest standards possible. I am responsible for a team which carry out skilled horticulture work involved. My range of managing includes planning jobs, purchasing plants and materials, managing, budgets, tree maintenance, grass management, training and development of the gardening team. Regular checks and assessments for, health and safety and liaising with line managers, ensuring jobs are performed as and when they are required.
Tell us your favourite part of being Head Gardener on the mount?
Being Head Gardener on the Mount has always been my ultimate goal and to have the honour of being Head Gardener to such an amazing and original garden is incredible. I enjoy every aspect of tasks that are required to maintain the gardens but my most favourite will be the amazing views.
Where is your favourite spot in the garden and why?
Mine would be standing from the eastern pillbox looking up to the castle with the gardens in the foreground. Every time I walk around the island, I always stop and look up through the gardens to the castle. Every day is different whether it be the weather, flowering plants to the cloud formation above the castle.
Your favourite plant in the garden and why?
I don’t really have a favourite plant, but I do like the variety of succulents that are available. When you think that one plants your favourite, another one turns up bigger and better and that becomes your favourite.
What makes the island’s garden so unique?
Mainly the climate here St Michael’s Mount it’s all helped by the mild Gulf Stream that provides warmth so frosts are a rarity and the rocks act as a huge radiator, absorbing heat during the day and radiant heat at night creating a micro-climate for many exotic-looking plants. The gardens face the sun throughout the day added with the reflected light off the sea. That’s how we as gardeners can always push our boundaries in the horticulture world and to grow some amazing plants. It’s amazing that these lush gardens prosper, given the sea conditions in the winter pounding the shores and the salty winds which blow in across the gardens.
What’s it like living on the island?
Living on an island is great, but it does take a little bit of time to get used to. You have to take into account the tides and weather conditions, especially if you are heading out for the day. During the day it can get very busy, but you know that later at the end of the day you will get the island back to yourself. This is when you can enjoy and make most of it.
Do extra duties come with being a resident?
As an island resident, there are extra duties that are required for the smooth running of the island once the visitors have all retreated to the mainland. These are mainly to assist in the operation of the evening duty boats and communication to and from the island. This helps those islanders that require to go to the mainland during the evenings for any reason.
What is your favourite memory of living on the island?
Filming for Dracula in 1979 when I was four. I remember dressing up in old dirty clothes covered in coal soot. I was in the tram yard throwing coal into the tram while they were filming, then we all jumped into an old car where they drove us across the causeway and through the lodge gates heading towards the castle. Even in the late 1980s we had over 300 soldiers camped out in the grounds, who were her on a military exercise. There is still evidence of ammunition rounds popping up in the gardens today.
Apart from the garden on St Michael’s Mount, what are your top 3 gardens that you have visited?
Every garden is different but one of my favourites was Alhambra Palace and gardens in Spain. Also, Levens Hall in South Lakeland was beautiful with its topiary gardens and hidden views around every corner. And one of my local favourite gardens in Cornwall is Trebah Gardens.
If you would like to find out more about our gardens, why not join a member of our team, or Darren himself, on a Garden Tour with the Team or Head Gardener Tour