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Me & My Job - Raoul Curtis-Machin, gardens adviser, National Trust

Grow, 28 April 2011

Raoul Curtis-Machin, gardens adviser, National Trust - image: HW
Raoul Curtis-Machin, gardens adviser, National Trust - image: HW

How did you get started in the industry?

I was hit by the gardening bug when I was 13 years old and ruining the garden with a football. I trod on a blue gentian and looked at a book to see what it was and saw this blue trumpet flower with mountains behind. My mum was a keen rock gardener and I got into growing plants and propagating fuchsias and geraniums. I went on to do a degree in landscape management at Reading University. I had an idea of joining the World Wildlife Fund to save the rainforest but found myself working on a restoration project in Hampshire. I started designing a woodland garden and then became ICI head gardener. I've also been a garden designer and writer.

- What advice would you give to people starting out?

Keep an open mind and try as many different things as possible. There are a whole lot of little careers in horticulture, from production to marketing and design. It can take a long time to find what you are best at.

- What does your typical day involve?

I help about 50 National Trust gardens across the eastern half of the country.

- What takes up most of your time?

Advising properties. A lot of head gardeners want to develop parts of their garden. The National Trust has a target to get a million more members over the next seven or eight years so we keep on with new features and designing new areas. There are a lot of challenges with 200 gardens and 450 gardeners. That's a hell of a knowledge base to try and unlock.

- What is the best part of your job?

It's a privilege to make changes in some of these gardens - some of the most impressive in the world.

- And the worst?

Travel. I seem to cover half the country.

- What does the future hold?

More books, hopefully, and I've done a screen test for the BBC. But when I looked at the specification for the job I have now, I couldn't believe how good it was.

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