Green fingers: Steven Firkins, Head Gardener at The Atlantic Hotel
It's hard not to fall for the view at The Atlantic Hotel. And with six acres of grounds stretching from the hotel to the headland, it's all there to explore. Keeping such a striking cliff top spot in pristine condition is the job of Head Gardener Steven Firkins, who's let us in on the challenges and rewards of maintaining the Atlantic's landmark location.
Sunset views at The Atlantic Hotel's cliff-top location
What makes The Atlantic Hotel special?
The setting of The Atlantic Hotel for me is second to none; the gardens are unique and offer long views to the ocean. I hope to create a tranquil yet stimulating setting for visitors to relax and enjoy the breathtaking and ever changing natural scenery.
What's the most challenging part of your work?
The weather creates a number of challenges. Positioned on the sandy headland the soil is very free draining, meaning for example that the lawns become saturated when we have heavy and persistent rain; but equally they can quickly become parched when the sun does finally arrive! The cold winds can also cause problems as the grounds are quite exposed to the elements.
The Atlantic Hotel's stunning coastal headland
How do you spend your day at The Atlantic Hotel?
My day at the hotel starts with a general tidy up of all areas for the guests, I then move on to gardening duties which I treat as small projects that I set myself for the week, but always thinking of the months ahead and the bigger picture for the hotel. This gives me a varied, interesting and challenging role, which I very much enjoy.
What plans does The Atlantic Hotel have for the grounds?
We're introducing more informal meandering paths through the headland, and framing the views with coastal grasses and herb planting. It's all about striking the balance between maintaining the manicured grounds of the hotel whilst still allowing the unique beauty of the coastal landscape to shine through, particularly as you get closer to the headland.
How would you say guests at The Atlantic Hotel could get the most out of the grounds?
In my opinion, you can't do better than a short stroll along the paths through the grounds to the headland. The beds are designed beautifully and thanks to the careful planting, there are things to admire right through the year. It's also wonderful to see the view and how the colours of sea and sky change during the day. Then in the evening, take time to have drinks or even your dinner outside to really make the most of the superb setting and the sunset.
The pool and terrace at The Atlantic Hotel
What's the best part of your day?
When you've finished working on something, you look back at it and it's immaculate. It always gives me great pleasure as a gardener to see something looking pristine.
What's your favourite spot in The Atlantic Hotel's grounds?
It has to be a spot just along the path beside the golf course which takes you out to the cliffs. There's a point along the path where you can look back at the beds curving back, and see the hotel and the pool framed with the Scots Pines. It's absolutely stunning.
Framed by Scots Pines, Steven Firkins' favourite view of The Atlantic Hotel
If you had to pick a favourite plant?
I love the liquidambar styraciflua, or the sweet gum tree, its leaves change colour through a whole spectrum from lime-coloured to yellow and finally deep burgundy. And I do have a soft spot for the smoke bush with its perfectly circular leaves which turn burgundy.
Tell us something we didn't know…
The Atlantic Hotel has its own Mediterranean kitchen garden planted up with all the varieties of herbs needed by chef Mark Jordan and the team at the Michelin-starred Ocean Restaurant. My favourite herb there is the lemon-scented verbena - I have been known to add some to my green tea!
Steven Firkins, Head Gardener at The Atlantic Hotel
Discover more about the stunning Atlantic Hotel, chosen by The Independent newspaper this month as one of their 50 Best British Hotels. To book a stay at The Atlantic Hotel call +44 (0)1534 744101 or visit www.theatlantichotel.com