Getting in the garden with Kate MacNicol

Earlier this month we had the pleasure of spending the day at beautiful Stody Lodge Gardens with Kate, sister to co-founders of TROY, Rosie and Lucia. After a wonderful morning spent exploring garden's rainbow of colour, we couldn't resist picking owner & gardening enthusiast Kate's brain on her top tips for getting into gardening.

"I discovered my love of gardening as a child weeding the paving stones of the terrace of our childhood home, Troy, with an old kitchen table knife just before our annual open day for the National Garden Scheme. Rosie and Lucia were also deployed in the last minute rush to get it all ship-shape. I think the enjoyment I saw from visitors, plus the funds raised for charities, has played a large part in me embracing the open days we have here at Stody Lodge (which is now in its seventh decade of opening to the public) – although I’m relieved to say I’m supported by an excellent team here so the last-minute panic is not so evident."

5 things I’ve learned about gardening:

  1. Plants carry memories. I have plants from the Troy garden now thriving here – erigeron is growing happily in between the terrace flagstones, and we have Troy pulmonaria planted in the shady spots beneath our rhododendrons – I think of my childhood whenever I see them.
  2. Gardening is a deep well of discovery – the more you learn the more you realise there is to learn.
  3. Gardening requires a lot of patience. Unless you’re prepared to pay for established plants, you need to wait up to 5 years for the intended look of a border to come to fruition.
  4. Have confidence – plant what you like in any combination – it’s your garden.
  5. Sit out in your garden and enjoy what you have created (and stubbornly ignore the jobs you will undoubtedly see everywhere).
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    Visit lots of gardens, all year round. There’s as much to be learned from someone’s pruning and composting system in winter are there is from dazzling herbaceous borders in summer. Not just big RHS gardens but also smaller private gardens eg local open garden schemes or through the NGS – this is where you often learn the best short cuts .


    There are many beautifully written and occasionally even amusing gardening books by wonderful writers such as Robin Lane Fox, Christopher Lloyd, Monty Don, Anna Pavord – their passion for plants is infectious and reinvigorating.


    There are many short and useful courses out there to get you going. I highly recommend The Plant School courses based in London or find a local one to you eg. The Norfolk School of Gardening.


    Learn how to sow seeds and take cuttings. Gardening is expensive – these are skills to learn early and you will save yourself £££ by mastering them. A window sill will do. Ask a friend to show you if you can’t do a course, then swap plants with them.


    Right plant - right place. Find out the original native growing conditions for a particular plant - if you can replicate these environmental conditions, get planting, otherwise don’t bother eg rosemary grows wild in the Mediterranean – dry and hot. Don’t try and grow it at the base of a north facing wall in the Outer Hebrides, like me!

Kate's Pick

Stody Lodge Gardens welcome the public throughout May.

Learn more here.

"The glory of gardening: hands in the dirt, head in the sun, heart with nature." Alfred Austin

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