The Dedicated Garden Staff

Have you ever strolled around the gardens and asked yourselves who’s responsible for all this beauty? How the magic works? We present our gardening staff – a small group of diligent, happy people who plant, prune, irrigate, and ensure that Ramat Hanadiv’s vision becomes a reality each day.


Ramat Hanadiv’s vision is led by the one and only Hugo Jan Trago, the CEO of Ramat Hanadiv.. Hugo, a man of nature, reached Israel in 1984 as a horticultural student from the Netherlands, fell in love with Ramat Hanadiv, and began working here as a gardener. In 1991 he was appointed director of the gardens, and subsequently became CEO of Ramat Hanadiv. Even today, as part of his role as CEO, the gardens are his “baby”. But the daily maintenance of the gardens is trusted to our professional, skilled gardening staff, comprising nine people: Shmulik – head gardener, Rafi – nursery manager, Lior – garden curator, and the gardeners, David, Chaim, Sameh, Eliyahu, Ofer and Stav.

Shmulik oversees the work

Shmulik Cohen began here as a gardener 31 years ago, “when you could have a barbecue on the grass”; it’s clear that since then much water has flown through the irrigation pipes. The gardens have developed and become a source of pride for their beauty, a flowering oasis throughout the year that delights the visitors who stroll along its paths.

Shmulik, with his suntanned skin, constantly on the move, is a turbo engine and extremely fit, and it’s no wonder: he traverses the gardens time after time, passing by the gardening staff, to check, counsel, and guide, give a compliment here and there, and maintain quality. He knows every shrub and plant in the gardens, knows the correct form and height for each of them – what should be round, what should be straight, what should be in the flowing English style, and what should be in the formal French style. He points to the funnel shape created by the shrubs so as not to hide the sea, and in years when it’s possible, he participates in continuing education programmes in gardens around the world, in order to become familiar with them, learn, and be inspired by other gardens and new gardening methods.

שמוליק מנצח על כולם
Shmulik oversees the work

The secret lies in diversification

It’s clear that the gardeners at Ramat Hanadiv aren’t bored. Not only is there always something to do here – the secret is in the great diversity of tasks: planting, pruning, weeding, mowing the lawn and more. ‘I make sure that everyone does a little bit of everything each day,’ says Shmulik, ‘it maintains a high level of interest as well as physical health – bending over, standing upright, sitting, each action has a different position.’

The flowerbeds for the new plantings provide an opportunity for the gardeners to feel a little bit like artists: each planting area is accompanied by a sketch – how the flowerbed will look when the planting is completed, and the planned combination of colours and plants. The shrubs here receive special care from the gardeners and are sculpted skilfully into “mushrooms” or “balls” placed in the flowerbed.

When is the peak of work? ‘Since the plants don’t go on holiday, the work is spread out over the entire year, but the peak is in the spring, when there is a lot of pruning, weeding and planting in parallel.’

Rafi Zegal, the nursery manager

How do you manage during the summer heat? ‘We work as usual, beginning at 6:30 to take advantage of the early morning hours. During the hot hours we make sure to work in the shade, and of course we rest more, and treat ourselves with ice creams when it’s really hot .’

What do you do when it’s really wet outside? ‘We organise the storerooms, meet for training sessions and to refresh our knowledge, and let the plants rest a while and enjoy their shower without us.’

It all begins in the nursery

Rafi Zegal, the long-time nursery manager, stands in the seedling area and waters row after row of young cork oaks. Most of them will actually be planted in the nature park. He and Oliveira, one of the nursery staff, grow all of the trees here from scratch – from seeds, acorns and cuttings. In the adjacent area, thousands of flower and herb seedlings wait patiently to be planted around the garden, as part of the winter plantings. After planting, the empty plant pots are washed before being used again.

Oliveira, one of the nursery staff

Next to the nursery is the garden’s experimental plot. Shmulik and Lior constantly identify new plants from special nurseries around the country and bring a few seedlings here to see how they grow under the garden’s conditions. Plants that develop sensitivities to aphids, diseases or other pests won’t be planted here, so as to avoid the need for sprays that harm the environment.


each planting area is accompanied by a sketch – how the flowerbed will look when the planting is completed, and the planned combination of colours and plants

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On the entrance and on the Fragrance Garden: Chaim Essers

The gardens and the gardeners

Each gardener is responsible for a specific area but works in all areas, as needed and according to the daily work plan, in collaboration with the other gardeners. We went to search for them throughout the gardens…

On the entrance and on the Fragrance Garden: Chaim Essers

We found him turning the soil before the winter flower planting. He’s been working here for 26 years, connected to nature through his soul. ‘There’s no difference between plants and people,’ he claims. He prefers the scissors to the pruning machine. The Fragrance Garden is also called ‘the pharmacy of life’ due to the medicinal plants to which he is so strongly connected. Above all, he loves the rue, ‘This plant smells like a skunk to deter snakes and scorpions, but I drink it in my tea.’

Chaim’s tip for private gardens: ‘If you don’t have a gardener or time to invest in gardening, the best thing is to plant everything in planters – they have a good base that protects the plants.’

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On the Cascade Garden and the Mausoleum Plaza: Ofer Hayoun

On the Cascade Garden and the Mausoleum Plaza: Ofer Hayoun

We found him pruning the shrubs into a mushroom shape. ‘The form here is a major part of the work,’ he says, pointing to the shrub that he spent an entire week shaping.

Ofer came here five years ago, after he left his job at Caesarea Golf Club, and in his opinion, received a significant upgrade to his work: ‘Most of the work there was mowing the lawn… you can’t compare that with the diversity and amount of plants here. Each one has its own flowering season.’ Ofer really loves to plant and sculpt the plants, and the mornings when there is absolute silence and the garden is his alone. The splashing water, the view of the sea, the dragon tree – all of these excite him anew each day.

Ofer’s tip for private gardens: ‘When you hire a gardener, make sure he’s a professional. Don’t be shy to ask to see a Level 2 qualified gardener’s course certificate. In this year-long course I became familiar with and learned to identify 500 types of plants and seedlings.’


The volunteer gardeners who come here every week, most of them pensioners who conduct the routine pruning and weeding jobs – Thanks to them the garden looks beautiful.

On the Iris Garden – David Baress

On the Iris Garden – David Baress

David prunes the dwarf pittosporum into a mushroom shape just before he goes to the Iris Garden to remove weeds.

David is the most experienced gardener here after Shmulik – 28 years! ‘This work is therapy for the mind, it quietens your thoughts,’ he says. ‘To see what I have created here gives me peace of mind. There are changes here all the time; we’re always busy improving things. When I came here, there were hardly any accessible paths. There are visitors who’ve been coming here every morning for years, and I know them well.’

David’s tip for private gardens: ‘It’s very important to know what type of soil you have before you start planting – what it’s suitable for and which plants it can support.’

On the Rose Garden – Eliyahu Kruger

On the Rose Garden – Eliyahu Kruger

Eliyahu has been here for 13 years. Like the others, he also admits that what makes his work here interesting is the diversity of the work. The annual pruning of the Rose Garden will begin soon; the roses flower throughout the year, but in early February they are pruned to encourage regeneration. For seven weeks they do not flower, and then in the spring they flower with spectacular abundance. The plants are replaced every ten years. ‘Roses are many things for people – romance, nostalgia – they remind them of their grandmother…’

Eliyahu is also responsible for the volunteer gardeners who come here every week, most of them pensioners who conduct the routine pruning and weeding jobs, and he never forgets to give them the credit they deserve: ‘Thanks to them the garden looks beautiful.’

Eliyahu’s tip for private gardens: ‘Don’t be afraid to try new things! In the worst case scenario, you’ll learn with time what works and what doesn’t.’

On the irrigation systems and expert pruning – Sameh Jabber

On the irrigation systems and expert pruning – Sameh Jabber

Sameh has been working here for 18 years, and in addition to the regular gardening and shaping work, he makes sure that every plot receives the precise amount of irrigation it requires, no more and no less. It’s all managed by a sophisticated irrigation system, which also warns of burst or leaking pipes, and in that case shuts down automatically to save water. And if we’re talking about savings, covering the soil with a natural cover of wood chips helps keep it moist and aerated, reduces evaporation and enriches it with organic matter.

Sameh’s tip for private gardens: ‘In the winter, perennial trees and shrubs manage just fine and there is no need to water them. Seasonal plants don’t need water either, as long as the soil is moist. The only plants that require frequent irrigation in the winter are new seasonal plants that were recently planted.’

On the Palm Garden – Stav Israel

On the Palm Garden – Stav Israel

Stav, a qualified landscape engineer, came here a year ago ‘just to work in the office.’ He is still learning the gardening work, and soon he’ll be responsible for the Palm Garden. ‘This garden is wilder, less formal, and that’s what I love about it,’ he says. Like all the gardeners, Stav also really loves the creativity expressed through shaping and sculpting the plants. He particularly likes the job of pruning the mastic tree, which in his words ‘has somethings meditative about it.’

Stav’s tip for private gardens: “Every garden should begin with a clear plan, although you can also create it as you go. In my opinion, the most important things are the small details – they create the magical atmosphere in our gardens, for example, the choice of flowers in each season or installation of an environmental sculpture can arouse interest”.

On knowledge – Lior Hershkovitz

On knowledge – Lior Hershkovitz

Lior Hershkovitz, the garden curator, is responsible for documenting the knowledge that accumulates here. No treatment, fertilisation, planting or pruning escapes him and it is added to the knowledge base to update the knowledge about each and every plant and improve its treatment.

Lior, a qualified agronomist, has filled this role for five years. He manages the irrigation programme and is also responsible for mapping the garden. ‘My aim is to understand how each plant behaves,’ he says. If one of the gardeners lacks information or is not sure about something, or if a plant behaves strangely or is, heaven forbid, sick, Lior is the one they turn to, and he ensures the best treatment for the plant.

Lior’s tip for private gardens: ‘The best time to prune trees is when they are still young and can be pruned with secateurs. This is the stage in which the skeleton begins to take shape and can be guided in any way we want. The branches are still small at this stage; thus, the pruning wound is relatively small.’

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