My first 100 days with Rosie Fyles

Head Gardener Rosie shares her experiences during her first 100 days as our Head of Gardens.

100 days is such a short time in a historic garden’s life and the ‘watching’ trees around me in the gardens remind me of this every day. They reassure me, as my mind races with ideas and things to look up, names to remember (both plants and people) and a to-do list the length of my arm…

And no two days of the first 100 have been quite the same. However, there have been two opposing, but consistent, feelings:  1) there’s so much to do it’s overwhelming and 2) there’s so much to do it’s exciting! Fortunately, excitement wins out as we uncover 300-year-old garden design and 12-year-old restoration working in the garden. The best days are shared among the team when working together: shrubs and trees are being placed at the heart of views, planting opportunities are created and there is a tangible, muscle-reviving sense of achievement.

Image taken in Gardens by Rosie, 2022

It’s not individual plants that create the sustaining energy for me – it’s the combined effect of plants, landscape, wildlife, historic context and people (and their dogs!) contributing to a beautiful whole. There is nothing quite like a team of staff and volunteers developing gardens and then having the privilege to observe visitors of all species appreciating and making good use of their work.

I’ve worked on Saturdays and seen smartly dressed family picnics going on where the week before we have weeded, re-shaped and planned for spring. Early mornings, I see benches being sat on where shaggy growth has been cut back the day before. I don’t count the hours dead-heading roses while the woodpecker nest is my soundtrack. One Sunday a group of carer parents and their children weed and transform a border, to brilliant effect. These moments make the core work – which I see as the management and administration – totally worthwhile. One does not easily, safely happen without the other.

Image of Gardeners Stephen and Lauren (and Stephen’s dog Brock) taken by Rosie 2022

And nothing happens without a team, working together. There have been some difficult moments when leadership weighs heaviest. But this heavy lifting is shared as my new team reveal themselves day to day. Kindness, thoughtfulness and the benefit of the doubt given, expressed in jugs of ice, a prize carrot, Friday croissants, Saturday cakes and emails I’m storing in the ‘encouragement’ folder. The hard work is visible almost everywhere too, combined with energetic, happy, sometimes giddy enthusiasm. Thank you.

Image of Obelisk surrounded by roses, taken by Rosie, 2022

What’s next? More of the same. Different seasons. A happiness festival (Fearne Cotton’s Happy Place), a pub (Pub in The Park) and a dog show (Chiswick House Dog Show). Taking advantage of autumn to plant these cleared areas and help them along to thrive. Bulb ordering – one of the best jobs. I’m looking forward to the apple and pear harvest as the Chiswick parakeets seem less hungry than those at Ham House (my previous stomping ground) upriver in Richmond. There are talks to give, walks to guide, new volunteers to meet and encourage. I’ve got papers to write and roses to move and replace.

And one of the best things for me in Chiswick House Gardens, we can all count on the changing colours in the trees watching over us.


Photo credit:

Images of Rosie (Banner) – taken by Nico Froehlich, 2022

Images of gardens – taken by Rosie Fyles, 2022