Mercury’ll Fix It: Schoolboy gardener’s perfect day with Somerleyton head gardener

SITTING in his greenhouse, schoolboy Ben Gibbs dreams of his perfect job - as head gardener at Somerleyton Hall.

So the Mercury fixed it for him to meet the stately home’s experienced head gardener and pick up some inspiration to help him on his way.

The 14-year-old has spent the last three weeks counting down the days until his Somerleyton trip, and his eyes widened with amazement as he toured the sun-soaked grounds yesterday.

He breathed “wow” as he saw the perfectly sculpted hedges at the edge of the maze, the towering trees and immaculately-kept walled garden.

And the curious Cliff Park High School pupil, of Belton, quizzed Mr Coutts as he toured the grounds - asking how the diverse flowers are kept, how often the grass is cut and about his daily routine.

After wandering the gardens, a delighted Ben gushed: “It’s definitely still my dream job. I’m saving up my money to launch a business and I’m going to try to get some really good GCSEs.”

Mr Coutts, 63, said he was impressed by Ben’s enthusiasm and believes he has what it takes to become a great gardener if he keeps up his hard work.

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“I think he’s got a bright future ahead of him,” said Mr Coutts, who started work as a gardener aged 15. “The number of gardening jobs has reduced all over the country, but there will always be space for good, hands-on gardeners.”

He advised Ben to knuckle down and get some good GCSEs, and told him he must practice until he is perfect if he is to head a team of gardeners one day.

“When you rake the ground it’s got to be like a billiard table,” said Mr Coutts. “You’ve got to be the best or your team will laugh at you!”

Ben was awe-struck at how well three full-time gardeners keep the grounds, and Mr Coutts admitted it can be a “frightening” amount of work.

But he said if the teenager starts with a small garden, he can work his way up to understanding the “full picture”.

Young Ben revealed his passion for plants in the Mercury last month, and has captured the imagination of people around the borough.

An elderly lady posted him a cheque to buy seeds, he was sent a gardening book written by Monty Don - his Gardeners’ World hero - and has had offers of work both in his village and as far afield as Filby.

He celebrated his birthday a fornight ago with a cake shaped as a garden shed, and has bought an iPad with lots of gardening programmes to use on it.

His mum Caroline, who works in a bank, said: “He’s been really looking forward to meeting the head gardener at Somerleyton and he’s been really excited.”

After the visit Mr Coutts gave Ben some cuttings of Somerleyton fuschias to grow in his greenhouse, and said Ben will be in his thoughts if opportunities should arise at Somerleyton.

Ben sells hanging baskets and does work under the name BG Gardening Services - to request his help, call him on 01493 782483.