27 March 2011
Friday, 1st April, marked the 20th anniversary of Jim Buckland’s appointment as Garden’s Manager at West Dean, near Chichester, West Sussex in the UK. Jim and his wife Sarah Wain, who joined him at the Gardens a few months after his appointment, have been the driving force behind not only the world-famous walled garden restoration but also the revitalisation of both the pleasure grounds and the arboretum at this wonderful estate.
Jim is gardening royalty and, indeed, has been courted by Royalty to garden for them. He is a workaholic, a perfectionist and immensely physical in his labours. He demands and expects the highest possible standards and is a quite brilliant organiser although he would always rather be gardening than doing the paperwork. A skilled builder, his work can be seen from the bridges in the restored Stream Garden beyond West Dean House to the paving in his own garden, which occasionally opens for charity. Jim loves flowers, often picking posies for his windowsills, and trees, bats and insects, pruning and encouraging young people into horticulture. He is also sincere in his encouragement of my community gardening endeavours and truly admires people who ‘have a go’.
I not only admire Jim professionally but also treasure him as possibly my closest male friend (apart from the Chief taster, of course!). We share a deep Catholic faith, a love of music and good conversation - and of eating and drinking. I met Jim about 18 years ago when organising the Chichester Food Festival at West Dean. I thought he was Gorgeous in his OshKosh dungarees and invited him to supper almost there and then. He turned up, of course with his equally gorgeous wife, and a great friendship was formed.
Jim loves stylish socks, pink pullovers, singing, ice cream and books. He wants time to learn to dance. He reads the Bible in French to brush up his language skills and showed true envy over a seven language dictionary owned by another friend when we were all in Venice together. He’s a great gardener - and a very wonderful friend. Happy anniversary Jim!