Behind the scenes at stately Knebworth Park with head gardener Tanya Silverton

PUBLISHED: 11:40 14 December 2008 | UPDATED: 21:33 26 October 2009

When Tanya Silverton was appointed as the new lady head gardener at Knebworth House she was delighted that they shared her commitment to green sustainable gardening. Tanya said: Of course my first priority is to look after the 28 acres of beautiful

Head gardener Tanya

When Tanya Silverton was appointed as the new lady head gardener at Knebworth House she was delighted that they shared her commitment to 'green' sustainable gardening.

Tanya said: "Of course my first priority is to look after the 28 acres of beautiful gardens, but I want to add another dimension by not only gardening in a chemical free environment whereever it is possible, but also passing on this philosophy and knowledge to our visitors."

The gardens include some magnificent and unusual trees, large herbaceous borders, 18 interconnecting colour-themed 'rooms', a wilderness garden complete with 72 dinosaurs, the Gertrude Jekyll herb garden and a walled garden growing herbs, fruit and vegetables.

"I want to bring even more seasonal colour into each area to ensure that there is something different to see each time visitors walk through the gardens," said Tanya.

"We use everything we have here. Nothing is wasted. We make our own compost, leaf mould and use any fallen branches for bark chippings.

"I think visitors would find this knowledge interesting and valuable."

Of course Knebworth garden and park is also home to numerous birds, hares, rabbits, hedgehogs, foxes - a vixen raised her cubs in the wilderness garden this year - and of course the park has herds of Seika and Red Deer.

The rabbits and the invading Muntjac deer can do a lot of damage to the gardens and Tanya has an ongoing battle.

"It is challenging at times, but in the main we like to let nature strike the balance," she said.

"For instance, slug pellets would harm our hedgehog population.

"Unfortunately we have no choice but to use some weed killer on the pathways which can become a health and safety hazard."

The walled garden is also organic and the fruit, vegetables, herbs and flowers are used in the house and tea rooms.

Tanya is planning to make this garden as interesting as possible especially to the large number of school children who visit.

She said: "I think if we can engage and interest children in vegetables we will stand a much better chance of getting them to eat a better diet."

She is also planning to re-introduce some of the heritage vegetables such as potatoes and beans.

South African born Tanya has travelled the world with her husband and has lived in countries as diverse as Australia and Chile.

She originally trained to be a gardener through the WRAGS (Women Returners To Amenity Gardening Scheme) and is currently studying for a masters degree with the Royal Horticultural Society.

Her holistic approach to gardening and the environment is deep-rooted.

"A garden is almost a spiritual place," she said. "If you respect nature she will then give back and nurture.

"I have seen many people 'damaged' by life who have found strength and health again by working in a garden.

"There is an old Chinese proverb which says, 'If you want to be happy for ever make a garden'. I really believe that."

Tanya is married with two children. She lives in Benington with her family and menagerie of animals which include a basset hound, two chickens, a cat, and two chinchillas!

For more information about Knebworth House, park and gardens, log on to www.knebworthhouse.com

For more features from Knebworth pick up our monthly Times Magazine; it's free in the WHT. The next issue is in January.


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