From dealing with unwanted weeds to trying to blossom a prize flower bed in extreme heat, gardening in summer is never easy.
But for award-winning horticulturalist Marie Casey, the chief gardener responsible for Oulton Broad’s gorgeous 4.5ha Nicholas Everitt Park, there are a few tricks which can help anyone, no matter how green your thumbs are.
Mrs Casey has been interested in gardening for as long as she can remember, and has worked professionally for the last 15 years.
Last month the park she is responsible for won its ninth consecutive Green Flag award, a prestigious accolade which recognises well managed and maintained green spaces.
Mrs. Casey said: “It’s nice to get the praise with the Green Flag, it makes it all worthwhile.
“I don’t usually think about awards, I don’t do it for praise, it’s just another garden for me.”
Describing the moment she decided to make the jump from gardening for fun to doing it as a career, Mrs. Casey said: “I thought one day I’d just see if I could get in with the council. I doubted it because there were no other women but I thought I would give it a go.
“But they were good enough to put me through East Coast College. I’ve been with Norse for 15 years now.”
Mrs. Casey is the only woman who gardens at Nicholas Everitt Park, and apart from a small team of other workers and volunteers who help once a week, she usually works alone.
She said: “It’s all men, I’m the only woman. It’s fine, they’re great – none of them take that old attitude. It’s always been a laugh.
“The most rewarding thing is seeing the elderly people enjoy the plants. They like to come and chat about things, about plants and their gardens.
“Some people ask advice on how to grow stuff, or they bring a plant in and ask me what it is. Normally I know.”
Here are Mrs Casey’s five top tips for amateur gardeners this summer:
1. You’ve got to love the job, you’ve got to be passionate about it.
2. You have to be quite methodical as a gardener. I try to work in blocks if I can.
3. You’ve got to constantly keep working and you can’t turn your back for long.
4. You’ve got to have some sort of artistic view with colour and some sort of vision. You need a vivid imagination, it’s like a painting really.
5. You’ll never get on top of weeding.
She added: “The middle of the café bed used to have a wildflower bed, so the seeds are constantly in the ground. I can’t keep on top of it. So I’ve used polythene sheeting to put around the plants, and put the composting over the top, and that’s actually worked.
“You don’t want weeds to keep seeding or they’ll spread everywhere. The more ground cover you’ll get you will keep the seeds out.”
Over the last five years Mrs. Casey has completely revamped Nicholas Everitt Park.
She said: “I think I’ve got it right now. It was abysmal when I first came in here. People have come and said it’s nicer now.
“I’ve near enough gone through everything I wanted to revamp and now it’s just looking after it. I’m especially pleased with the duck pond and bridge: this took me all of the time I’ve been in here.”
Mrs. Casey said she felt fortunate that the park had always had the funds it needed, but was disheartened to see “a lot of parks and public areas have been lost due to cutbacks”.
She said: “Many years ago you would have had seven workers in here, but then cutbacks and machinery changed that.
“It’s hard work by myself but you can do it as long as you keep on top of it.”