My Life in Gardening by Emma Sharpe

Our guest speaker on 18th May was Emma Sharpe, Head Gardener at Winchester Cathedral, her topic “My Life in Gardening.”

Following graduation from Liverpool University Emma travelled in India, Australia and South East Asia, worked in London and later moved to Hampshire. A long cherished interest in horticulture prompted an application to WRAGS (the horticultural training scheme for women). Acceptance led initially to a year’s practical experience. Her placement was at Bere Mill, Whitchurch, (happily familiar to many of us, as it is in the NGS Yellow Book.) A five acre formal garden, bog garden, gravel garden, wisteria garden, double herbaceous border, arboretum, splendid climbing roses, a lake and a river rich in wildlife must have provided a varied learning opportunity.

More followed in her first post as a junior gardener at Hillier’s Arboretum. She later became Team Leader, involved in creating the impressive Centenary Border which absorbed two full years and 30,000 plants!

As Head Gardener at Winchester Cathedral, since summer 2014, Emma aims “to maintain what jewels we have and upgrade priority areas: front gardens (public interest), Refectory Gardens, back and front, The Deanery and Riverside.” One of Emma’s many interesting slides depicted an aerial view of the 23 acres. As the area is so sheltered it is apparently warm, a significant factor. Emma’s “jewels” are: 350 trees (all in a Conservation Area), The Minster, Paddock, Outer Close, Deanery Garden, Riverside, the border at number 9, Allotments, Refectory and Dean Garnier Garden and Herb Garden.

Emma’s aim is “to inject colour”, and we were shown some striking examples. She faces a major challenge in her tasks, but acknowledges the help she receives from her two apprentices and volunteers, after all, as well as the gardens there are 6 acres to mow!

Emma clearly loves her work, and having responsibility for such a special area must be a continuing inspiration.