Landscape designer and gardener Angela Arrowsmith preferred the garden centre to the playground when she was a child. Now she keeps Britomart’s lush landscaping looking blooming wonderful.
Hi Angela! Where are you hunkered down at the moment, and who are you with?
I am in Laingholm and I’m perfectly happy just with my dogs. My niece comes to visit me sometimes – we’re bubble buddies. We’re all doing great.
How long have you been working with Britomart on the precinct gardens?
I will have been there three years in October, looking after all the garden arrangements. I do the changeovers, and keep the plants looking nice all the time.
The original garden design was created by Damien Wendelborn – in your maintenance role do you follow set guidelines or do you have freedom to choose?
I choose everything, and have complete freedom to do so. I’d say 90 percent of the planting has changed over time. In terms of the maintenance, I’ve been doing it so long that I know what needs to be done and when it needs to be done. In saying that, I do sometimes play tricks on the plants and will prune them at different times of the year so that we get more winter colour, and things like that.
How do you decide which plants to take out and put in?
Most of the time when I change something out it’s because it’s been vandalised, or because it’s outgrown the pot and has become too root-bound to be sustainable in that location. When it comes to which ones I choose to put in, it’s completely driven by the environment – where the plant is located, what the wind’s doing, what’s the sun’s doing, and in Britomart’s case, how hot the pot gets. Some of the pots are steel, and they get really hot. Some plants can tolerate having hot roots a lot better than others. So it’s not just about which plants are going to look amazing. You have to think about which plants are going to endure in that exact environment and try to make them look amazing at the same time.
Do you prefer to work with natives or exotics?
I like to use a lot of natives but the flowering perennials that are what really give you the colour that can be a bit lacking in natives. So the natives are there to give structure in the pots, and then they’ll be surrounded by flowering perennials and annuals.
What happens to the plants that you take out?
Sometimes the staff from Britomart will take them home. If they’re the type you can replant happily, they go and live in other gardens. If they’re damaged or not the sort that will replant happily, they’ll go into my compost or the compost bins at Britomart.
How much of your time does maintaining Britomart’s landscaping take up each week?
I’m there for about 20 hours every week. The rest of the time I design residential gardens under my business Lucid Gardens.
What qualities do you think Britomart’s living landscaping brings to the precinct?
I think it brings a liveliness into the city, which can be quite dull and sterile. Having the plants around brings everything to life and helps people engage with the spaces and engage with the shops. And it also brings a lot of joy to people. I’m continuously getting comments about how much people enjoy walking through the gardens and taking ideas back home to their gardens, which is awesome to hear.
How many different types of plants are there within the garden, at a guess?
[Laughs] I have no idea! There’s a lot more going on within the pots than most people will realise. There are different things that come up at different times of the year, some things will be cut back and you won’t know they’re there for a while. But tonnes. Hundreds.
What’s happening to the gardens during lockdown? Are they having to fend for themselves?
The wonderful Britomart security team are tending to them at the moment, but I’m not allowed in there. I’m anticipating a bit of tidying up afterwards. The team did say it was all looking good last week.