Tom Brown - Head Gardener, Parham House Gardens

The new season of events for COGS opened magnificently with a sensational talk by Tom Brown, Head Gardener of Parham House and Gardens. Some of us had met him already of course when we had an exhibition at their unforgettable 'Grow Your own Show' last August. Vee Cowan then had the brilliant idea of getting Tom to come to Chichester and talk to us about his career and work at Parham.
Starting with his fascinating 13 years at RHS Wisley, where he worked his way up the career ladder to Senior Supervisor in their research and development programme, Tom captivated the audience of COG's experienced gardeners with his knowledge, expertise and humour. At Wisley there was space to grow and trial endless varieties of the same species, to build mazes out of sweetcorn plants and knot gardens out of lettuces with sufficient reserves of helpers in times of pressure.
All this was on contrast to the challenge awaiting him at Parham where his initial good intentions of biding his time and progressing slowly in his first year were never fulfilled as his enthusiasm and inspiration could not held back by prudence and caution. In his first year alone he had carried out major renovations and alterations in the size and structure of the beds and pathways. The orchards and fruit gardens also needed some TLC, but most impressive of all was his innovative approach to recycling and composting when he brought in reinforcements in the shape of two Tamworth pigs. These stalwart animals munched their way through so much vegetable waste and kitchen scraps, producing excellent manure as a consequence, that when their time came to then boost the supplies of bacon, were found to be massively over weight even for pigs. Apparently they had led a short but pampered happy life of luxury, and who could begrudge them that?
Other tips gleaned from Tom's talk included how to increase production in apple trees, successional sowing to produce constant supplies of cut flowers throughout the year, how to stock and tend the pond flora when wearing ones best suit, and how to choose and position plants for successful and eye catching borders.
We wish Tom all the best with his development of Parham Gardens and hope to visit there as a group to see how he is getting on next year.

Report by Susan Sinnett-Jones