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Interview with Millichope Park, Head Gardener, Egle Zinkute

We are delighted to have a guest interview and behind the scenes glimpse of Egle’s role managing the picturesque landscape garden and parkland evolved to set off this neoclassical hall.

Tell us about your role as Head Gardener at Millichope Park

The opportunity to head the gardens at Millichope came at a point of relative juniority in my horticultural experience. I had completed studies in humanities at Trinity College, Dublin but decided on a career change. After completing a Bachelor in Horticulture in Dublin, gardening first led me to Trentham Estate in Staffordshire. As that was a rather educational and adventure-filled tenure, the prospect of Millichope Park may have seemed a restless, brash or polar next move (almost five years ago). What I have found at Millichope is a sense of place offered by an historic setting that has continuity and life bestowed by dint of remaining in the hands of resident owners who love their gardens. The team is of modest size, seasonal and with a flat hierarchy of duties. The gardens are varied, with contrasting wildness and formality, woodland and full sun. Thus, myself, one full-time colleague (the groundsman handy with machinery) and part-time helpers are all involved in a range of seasonal garden tasks. This way of working the gardens is, perhaps, more intimate - closer to what tending one's own garden would entail. Much pleasure is added to our year by the open days that continue the NGS association fostered by Sarah and Lindsay Bury, the parents of Frank Bury who together with his wife Antonia and children take interest in and appreciate our efforts. I also enjoy a reasonable degree of freedom in design, plant choice and have ongoing consultations determining the overall direction of our focus.

What are your favourite parts of the Park and why?

It's hard to beat the magic of our water garden, a sun pocket overhung with the sizeable climbing rose 'Paul's Himalayan Musk'. The combination of trees, lake water and wildlife with early season pretties makes this a special corner of the garden to tend. The area always glows, first with an extremely early scarlet red Rhododendron sp., later with primulas, daffodils and a raft of early perennials, and then with autumn yellows including the European bladdernut, Staphylea pinnata.

Do you have a few favourite trees in Millichope Park and why are they your favourites?

Like all historic estates, Millichope sports a number of fine large tree species, such as the coastal redwood, beech and pines. Amidst this host of characters three stand out for unrelated reasons as extra special. The oft admired Cedar of Lebanon plays a key role in the picturesque composition overhanging the rotunda sat aloft the cliff, reflected in the lake waters below. It's a giant when inspected from the ground beneath the canopy and all the more precious since the fashion, the symbolism and the opportunity to plant cedars are receding into the past given the prevalence of cedar shoot blight (Sirococcus tsugae). Then we've got a bulging-bellied oriental plane straddling the bank on the lakeside serpentine track. It casts most of that lovely, dappled shade in the area and sports a crevice just large enough to dream of a book on a long afternoon tucked away in its bowels. Finally, there's the little loved ginkgo which through chance has found itself in what now functions as our nettle-filled composting wood, just outside the walled garden. Its golden foliage studding the muddy track is a reassuring message on grey winter days, harking back to the bygone ambitious era of tree planting that aimed to extend the pleasure grounds east of its present settled boundary.

What inspired you to go into horticulture?

My own path into horticulture was down to a rather sudden stirring of the heart. Aged twenty-five and nose-deep in academic book-worming, I suddenly realised that the wallpaper of the world - greenery - had an immensity of detail that I couldn't ignore any longer, just as I couldn't ignore that I was in a family of enthusiastic gardeners but knew nothing about what my mum was growing in her front garden. Hence, a conversion.

What time of year is best to visit Millichope Park?

Depending on your sensibility (melancholy or forever buoyant), Millichope is at its best either in spring (May openings with cherries, magnolias and bluebells), or in autumn (October openings with autumn colours, dramatic skies and fragrant foliage).

Write up courtesy of Egle Zinkute

Interesting Facts about Egle: Egle was born in Lithuania, raised bilingual, then her family moved to Co. Offaly, Ireland where she grew up from age 13. Egle read humanities at Trinity College (B.A. Biblical and Theological Studies & Film, then M.Phil. in Ecumenics). In 2013 she decided on a career change and embarked on the BSc. in horticulture at the Dublin Botanic Gardens, Glasnevin and DCU (Dublin City University). Egle has been gardening in England since the start of 2018 (Trentham Estate) and heading Millichope Park from September of that year. She also met her partner Nick there. They tend a small garden of their own by the cottage where they live on the estate together with two cats. Egle is a member of the Professional Gardeners' Guild and the Institute of Development Studies, and still very much an avid reader in her spare time.

Egle’s Nominations and awards include The Young Horticulturist of the Year (YHOY) representing Ireland, whilst based at the National Botanical Gardens Dublin.

Talk about Millichope Park, Friday 28th July: Join us for a special talk by Egle Zinkute, Head Gardener at Millichope Park, as she gives an introduction to the park and a tour of its different areas. See our talk page for full details.

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