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Gardening update: all the latest news to get spring started 

Eythrope, private garden of the Rothschild family, opens for booked tours, May-October
Eythrope, private garden of the Rothschild family, opens May-October

With a lot happening in the world of gardens at the moment, it seems like a good moment to stop and take stock. The headline news is the resignation of Troy Scott Smith from his post at Sissinghurst, where since 2013 he has presided over something of a transformation in tone at the garden made by Vita Sackville-West, reintroducing more of the romantic, blowsy, rose-bedecked feel of this “ramshackle farm-tumble”, as her husband, Harold Nicolson, described it with classic shabby-chic understatement (it is a castle, after all).

Troy Scott Smith, outgoing head gardener at Sissinghurst, Kent Credit: Clara Molden for the Telegraph

Scott Smith has not given reasons for his imminent move to Iford Manor in Wiltshire, the idyllic Italianate terraced garden that was the work of arts and crafts formalist Harold Peto. One can only surmise that after several decades and almost his entire career with the National Trust, he is looking forward to a less bureaucratic set-up. And it looks as if Iford might be in need of a shake-up – at the moment, “fine tea” and “craft cider” are being given equal billing to the garden, at least on the website.

The question is, who will succeed him? And should the new head gardener be female, which was the Sissinghurst tradition until his ­appointment? The job is currently being advertised with a salary of £40,000 plus a house.

In other moves, BBC Radio 4 just announced that newsreader Kathy Clugston will replace Eric Robson as the chair of Gardeners’ Question Time in May. Less of a surprise is the retirement this month, after 28 years at the helm, of the estimable husband-and-wife team of Jim Buckland and Sarah Wain from West Dean gardens in Sussex. Their

Tom Brown is leaving Parham House for West Dean Credit: Jonathan Buckley

successor is Tom Brown, who has been at nearby Parham House since 2010, and prior to that at RHS Wisley, where he ran the plant and vegetable trials. This pedigree should put him in good stead for looking after West Dean’s famous walled kitchen gardens – which were recently described, perhaps slightly immodestly, as “exemplary” in the subtitle of their recent book about the gardens (although no one would argue with that).

Meanwhile at Wisley, “whizzkid” curator Matthew Pottage – who, now he is over 30, perhaps should no longer be described in this way – has been ruffling feathers with his planting of conifers (a personal passion) and a revamp of the heather garden, which is now officially known as “the heather landscape”. This involves spiky Yucca rostrata and globe artichokes, towering above the heathers like alien invaders.

RHS Wisley Curator Matthew Pottage on the rock garden Credit: Philip Hollis for the Telegraph

It has been announced that the walled garden at Eythrope, the Rothschild family’s private house adjacent to Waddesdon in Buckinghamshire, is to open to the public for tours for the first time, on certain days from May to October (see waddesdon.org.uk). In Northern Ireland, official royal residence Hillsborough Castle reopens to the public on April 18 after a £20 million revamp, including a four-acre walled garden. Garden designer Catherine Fitzgerald (Mrs Dominic West) has been involved, as has landscape designer Mark Lutyens.

The future of Prospect Cottage at Dungeness, in Kent, and the garden made there on the shingle by film-maker Derek Jarman, is less clear since the death of his former partner Keith Collins last year. Sadly, many of Jarman’s sculptural artefacts have been pilfered by visitors over the years, but it remains an important site.

Goldney House and Gardens Credit: University of Bristol

In the world of garden history, one of Britain’s most sumptuous grottoes (complete with lion), in the grounds of Goldney Hall in Bristol, is being opened to the public, from April, for pre-booked tours by the University of Bristol. And a big row is under way concerning an apparent decision by the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) not to make available to researchers and the public the conservation management plans it funded during the restoration of public parks and other spaces. These CMPs are invaluable historical documents and garden historian Johnny Phibbs is leading the charge to persuade the HLF to change its mind.

Chelsea Flower Show usually throws up some dramas, and this year the big news was the sudden departure of Ann-Marie Powell from the roster of show-garden designers, apparently because of difficulties with the Chinese sponsors. “It was a commercial decision we had to make,” she told me. “We had no choice, given the timescale. I was at risk of producing a garden of a quality I wouldn’t be proud of.”

The Chelsea Fringe Festival (May 18-26), is this year spreading to Suffolk for the first time, where Jason Gathorne-Hardy’s magical White House Farm at Great Glemham is partnering for a multifaceted event entitled “Florabundance” (April 27-May 26).

"The Sun" glass sculpture by Dale Chihuly  Credit: Ellen McKnight / Alamy 

Still in the world of the arts, the Dale Chihuly exhibition of colourful glass sculptures, to be held in the Royal Botanic Gardens Kew (April 13-Oct 27), looks set to be just as exciting as its first iteration, in 2005, this time with a new roster of works. Kew also opens a giant new childrens’ garden on May 18.

Last Monday’s opening at the National Gallery, an exhibition devoted to Spanish artist Joaquín Sorolla, also promises much for gardeners, as he had an affinity with flowers and made a fine garden in Madrid, which can be visited.

Finally, a tip: for a coffee or drink in central London, visit the top floor of the revamped Royal Opera House, where Matt Keightley has designed the planting, based on amelanchiers, on the spacious outdoor terrace. This is now a much more alluring prospect than before, and is open all day.