Have a seat with...

Steve Lannin

We were very fortunate to sit down with Steve Lannin, Head Gardener of Mapperton Estate, to discuss what we can learn from our gardens and how we can keep and maintain them beautifully. 

Hi Steve, great to speak with you! Describe a day in your life at Mapperton Estate- what are your typical daily tasks?

Varied! Mapperton is a complicated garden and no two days look the same. I’m a very hands on gardener so you may find me crawling about on my knees weeding or mowing, strimming or leading a tour. We are a small team and we all take turns doing different tasks. 

You’ve held many positions as ‘head gardener’- what has been the most valuable experience you have had so far?

I think each garden has something to teach me, and I’m hugely indebted to those I’ve worked for and with. At Sudeley I learned how to be a professional gardener, at Allt y bela I learned just how far you can take those skills and at Mapperton I’m trying to become a more complete gardener. It’s the journey that is the most valuable aspect and I’m learning every day. 

Allt y bela looks a magical and inspiring place, what did you draw from your time there?

I learned so much working for Arne Maynard. I think the most important things I learned there where to not be afraid to experiment and that it’s the details which make a garden. Working at Allt y bela expanded my horizons and opened my mind, it was thrilling. 

How would you describe your gardening style?

Classically English; I like tight sculptural structure and loose informal planting with self seeders encouraged. 

" I think each garden has something to teach me, and I’m hugely indebted to those I’ve worked for and with. ."

What would you underplant underneath one of our swing seats, in order for the scents of the blooms to waft upwards towards whoever is swaying?

I love herbs so thyme and oregano with perhaps some spicy rosemary planted to the sides to run my hands through. I’ve loved growing night scented phlox this year as well and I can imagine relaxing in the evening enveloped by its heady perfume. 

What is your favourite season to be out working in the garden?

It has to be Autumn, the air is sweeter and softer, the garden more temperate. Crunching through leaves, bonfires and a time to reflect over the summer just gone while still feeling connected to it. 

What is your inspiration when it comes to creating and maintaining a beautiful garden?

Gardens are all so different, they are a product of their history, site, conditions the list goes on. For me it’s tapping into the genius loci; the sense of place and working to enhance that. I love to hear the stories of how a garden came to be without necessarily being bound by it, but rather inspired by it. 

Ann-Marie holding a watering can ready to garden in some colourful heels

What has been the moment in your career that you are most proud of?

I think completing my RHS Master of Horticulture was probably my proudest moment, I’m not an academic but it had been something I’d talked about having a go at for years before I ever tried it. There’s no end point to your learning journey in horticulture but it was a satisfying moment along the way. 

Would you say that gardening has beneficial effects on mental health and mindfulness? Have you experienced this?

Gardening builds resilience, patience and encourages you to nurture and care. I think being in amongst the natural world is humbling and hugely inspiring. When the sun breaks through the clouds and shafts of golden light illuminate a scene right in front of your eyes I feel transported, albeit momentarily to heaven, it’s very powerful and very addictive. 

How have you managed to keep the planting of Mapperton so varied, yet so organised and well-placed?

The great variety of planting at Mapperton represents the gardens major influencers over the last century starting with Ethel Labouchere who built the Italianate fountain court, followed by Victor Montagu who planted the arboretum and many of the shrubs and trees in the main gardens and more recently Lady Sandwich who has a passion for really choice and unusual plants. In recent years we have sought to edit some of the borders while building on some of our plant collections. 

"Gardening builds resilience, patience, and encourages you to nurture and care."

What advice would you have for young gardeners starting out in their careers?

Don’t be afraid to try, if you fail, which occasionally we all do, you learn and move on. There are no real rules to gardening but also no real shortcuts, you build a feel for what you are doing through trial and error and repetition. 

The history of Mapperton Gardens can be thought of as 17-19th century, 1920s, 1950s-60s, and present day. Which is your favourite era of the garden’s background and why?

I think the real magic of Mapperton is the way the different periods of garden development gel together to create a garden experience which is both historic and timeless. 

What is the most challenging aspect of gardening at Mapperton?

Definitely the topography of the garden. The gardens nestle into a steep narrow Combe so a lot of my day is spent either working on slopes or walking up and down steps!

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Posted on September 29th 2021


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