18 Jan 2019

Our Garden Horticulturists – James Kettle

Bruce Langridge

Regular visitors to the Garden may well recognise our horticulturist James Kettle.

At 6 foot 5 inches tall,  James stands out anyway but being mainly based in the Great Glasshouse for the past 7 years, James has also been working in the most high profile section of the Garden. Always helpful, friendly and horticulturally wise, James has also been a hugely popular figure with our visitors.

But now his role has changed. We’re delighted that James has been promoted to Horticultural Supervisor, effectively deputy to our Curator Will Ritchie. His life is changing too – he is due to become a father for the first time.

As part of a new series of blogs about our horticulturists, I thought it would be fun to present give our featured gardeners a short questionnaire. James has bravely agreed to be the first.

Where were you brought up?

Near Chesterfield in Derbyshire. I could walk to Chatsworth House from my home.

Where did you train to be a horticulturist?

Derby College, Pershore College in Worcestershire and then Kew Gardens.

How long have you worked at the Garden?

About 7 years. Before then, I worked at various jobs including Cambridge Botanic Garden and Webbs of Wychbold garden centre.

What does your job involve?

I used to be based in the Great Glasshouse, Boulder Garden and Wallace Garden. But for my new job, I’m helping Will Ritchie run the department. I’m working on projects, helping staff and students with day-to-day duties, ordering stuff like compost and plants, and looking after equipment. I’ll still be keeping my hand in with practical horticulture though.

What part of the Garden do you most like?

I’m going to be biased but for me it’s got to be the Great Glasshouse. We’ve made lots of changes there to cope not only with the relative short life of most Mediterranean climate plants there but also to refresh the soils with compost and to keep the displays looking great for our visitors.

Do you have a favourite plant?

Proteas. They’re such a fascinating group, not only because of their long evolutionary history but because of their form and structure. They’re also a real challenge to grow.

Last question. Is there anything about yourself that might surprise people?

I’m a musician who plays guitar and saxophone and I also sing with the Carmarthen Male Voice Choir. I’m also a professionally trained chef and like most of my fellow horticulturists, I reckon I can cook most things.

James is also a tweeter on Twitter – follow him  @HortiJ