Meet Chatsworth’s ‘walking, talking, gardening encyclopedia’


Patrick Coleman meets the retired RHS medal-winner and master table-decorator who was head gardener at Chatsworth.

OUR garden is an inhibiting place to go out with a trowel.” So wrote Deborah, Duchess of Devonshire, about the grounds at Chatsworth, her home of 54 years. She wasn’t kidding: there are 105 acres of garden contained by a wall 1¾ miles long. Within are fountains, rockeries, statues, streams and giant glasshouses, not to mention lawns as big as fields!
As an outside observer, I can’t imagine where you’d begin to look after such a place, which is why today I’m a little bit in awe, for I’m meeting a man whose huge responsibility it once was! For 40 years, Ian Webster was a Chatsworth gardener, rising through the ranks at the historic stately home to become head gardener under the 11th Duke and Duchess.
Now retired, Ian still lives just a couple of miles from the garden he used to run, in a parkland house with its own (unsurprisingly) stunning grounds…