Head Gardener – Matthew Brewer

I started my role at Fairlight Hall, in November 2022, having left my role as a Head Gardener of Marwood Hill Gardens, in North Devon a few week or so before.  I exchanged the green, hilly, rural and quiet village life style, in the back of beyond, for the bustling seaside town of Hastings, a busy town with its big skies and impressive sea views, where lots happens.

Having had the pleasure of being a head gardener for two different gardens, it would be hard not to make comparisons. The two gardens couldn’t be more different. Marwood is 70 years old established garden; wild, naturalistic, picturesque, and very hilly. Located at the bottom of a valley, it was very inward looking with only a few spots offering views of the landscape beyond, it did however benefit from lakes and water and microclimates, meaning a wide variety of plants would grow well. It was a bit of a hidden paradise and had many established plant collections.

Fairlight Hall is located at the top of a hill. The imposing and beautiful hall dominating the surrounding landscape, with stunning wide open views across to White Cliffs of Dover. It is a young garden and is open and formal. Over the past two decades the team has worked hard to bring order to the site removing self-seeded birch trees and Rhododendron ponticum that was dominating much of the estate. Box and Yew hedging divides the garden into a series of rooms, providing much needed shelter from coastal winds but also enabling each part of the garden to have its own theme and planting design. The main ornamental garden at 10 acres is surrounded by an extensive area of meadow and continually developing woodland plantings. My knees don’t miss the Devon hills, and I am certainly pleased to see the back of the constant heavy rainfall of North Devon. Here the conditions are milder, drier. The garden is very diverse and very busy, no two days are the same and I am excited at the prospect of drawing on all my past experience in managing and further developing this very special garden.