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Page last updated at 14:46 GMT, Friday, 5 June 2009 15:46 UK
Build a Springwatch haven at home
Phil Daley
By Phil Daley
BBC Norfolk

Chris Packham and Imogen Checketts

Chris Packham talks to Pensthorpe's head gardener Imogen Checketts

The Wildlife Habitat Garden at Pensthorpe Nature Reserve, which is now admired by millions of Springwatch viewers, was once a weed infested mess.

After 20 years of growing and evolving, the time came for head gardener Imogen Checketts to transform it into a wildlife paradise.

"When I arrived it was covered in bindweed and mouse tale, which are hard weeds to get rid of," said Imogen.

The garden is now full of perennials and grasses, which attracts wildlife.

Imogen took up the challenge of looking after the gardens at Pensthorpe in 2007, just 12 months before the reserve became host to BBC Springwatch.

"Springwatch was a bit of a shock - I wasn't expecting to do so much so soon," said Imogen.

"It's quite a task, but an enjoyable one - I do love it," she added.

Being a gardener at a nature reserve does throw up some of its own problems, but like most gardeners, the biggest issue is keeping control of the weeds.

"We do have ducks wandering around and they love to nest in the garden, which can be a bit troublesome," said Imogen.

"The thing I spend most of my time doing is weeding and cutting things back," she added.

Springwatch Garden

Imogen Checketts
Imogen used to be a chef before retraining as a gardener

Imogen's latest challenge was to transform the old butterfly garden into something fit for the BBC's Springwatch team, to show off to millions of viewers.

The Wildlife Habitat Garden, or Springwatch Garden as it's often known, is designed to attract as much wildlife as possible using certain plants and grasses.

"We have used lots of plants with berries on and high fragrance shrubs," said Imogen.

"We've also got a lot of high-nector plant so it will bring in a lot of insects.

"The garden is like a little snap-shot of the rest of the park."

As if this wasn't enough to charm the birds and the bees to Pensthorpe, there are other gardens for wildlife and visitors to enjoy at the reserve.

"The Wave Garden and the Millennium Garden are both highly geared towards wildlife," said Imogen.

"The Millennium Garden is purely perennials and grasses - it is absolutely covered in butterflies during the summer," she added.

If you think Imogen has the perfect job and simply plays around with a few plants, think again.

"I've planted 22,500 bulbs in the three gardens, so we keep adding things to make it even better for the public," she said.

The Wildlife Habitat Garden is officially opened on Saturday, 6 June, 2009 at 11am by Springwatch's Chris Packham.




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