This season we welcome Fiona Alexander, walled kitchen gardener and volunteer co-ordinator.
It is her job to help maintain and develop this historic kitchen garden – with the help of around 15 volunteers – so it produces a steady supply of fruit and vegetables.
Here, she takes time out from planting asparagus to give an insight into her career and love of gardening.
Q: Where did your gardening career start?
A: I originally trained as a jewellery designer before changing jobs about four years when I really got into gardening. I got a careership with the National Trust at Clumber Park, where I trained to be a gardener and gained qualifications along the way. I was also a volunteer gardener for four years at Ilam near Ashbourne.
Q: Why did gardening appeal to you?
A: It was the idea of being outside in the open. It’s a more relaxed and less stressful atmosphere. There’s also the satisfaction of watching things grow and seeing what you have achieved – it’s there in front of you.
Q: What made you apply for the job at Kelmarsh Hall?
A: The walled kitchen garden because Clumber Park, where I was working, has a large kitchen garden so I already had experience of working in that kind of area. The idea of bringing back some of the design elements at Kelmarsh was also appealing and I thought the story of Nancy Lancaster was a very interesting one.
Q: How valuable are the volunteers in maintaining the kitchen garden?
A: It’s absolutely essential. They have already got involved in lots of projects, not just weeding and digging, so they’re getting involved in different areas. We’ve got a good team and that’s already starting to show through.
Q: What is your favourite vegetable to grow?
Q: And your favourite vegetable to eat?
Q: And your favourite flower?
Q: What do people get out of growing their own fruit and veg?
A: It’s that feeling of satisfaction and achievement, plus the fact that it just tastes so much better. It’s also great to get outdoors instead of being stuck inside and parents can get their children involved in it too.
Q: What are your hopes for the kitchen garden at Kelmarsh?
A: We’re already providing produce for the tea room so it would be good to develop that and the productivity of the garden, not just the vegetables but the flowers too. We make veg boxes up to sell so if anyone is interested in ordering one, they can always get in touch.
Volunteering opportunities at Kelmarsh Hall