Tuesday, 14 May 2013

Career in Professional Gardening

Want to be a professional gardener? Then you will need plenty of passion, practical experience and a formal qualification, writes Rachel Anderson.

Gardening apprenticeship: combines practical experience along with part-time study

A career in professional gardening can lead you to work in some of the finest gardens, both in Britain and across the globe.

RHS Garden Wisley horticultural courses manager Tim Hughes is a prime example of this. "I have been working in horticulture for 33 years and have been lucky to have worked in some amazing locations," he says.

"I have the ability to work all over the world and I love the diversity in the range of opportunities that the industry has to offer for me - and I have met the nicest people in the horticulture industry."

The job clearly has its glamorous side - gardeners can work in botanic gardens, heritage gardens or major private estates - and there are jobs available for those entering the profession for the first time thanks to the increasing popularity of garden tourism and many gardeners reaching retirement age.

There is, however, a far less glamorous side to the job that only those with a passion for plants can willingly endure. It is, of course, the weather, and in particular the harsh winter conditions that gardeners must brave when carrying out their day-to-day tasks - planting, pruning, weeding, mowing and mulching - so that gardens can look their best when spring arrives.

Neil Miller, head gardener of the award-winning Hever Castle & Gardens in Kent, says: "In our business you are going to love it or hate it. It's not everyone's cup of tea, so you have to have a passion for it.
"If you do have green fingers and soil in your blood, I cannot think of a better vocation. There are no negative people working here because they want to be here."

Many gardeners advise getting some work experience first if you are thinking of entering the industry. This way, you can find out whether or not you have the prerequisite passion, while at the same time gaining some of the essential, practical skills that employers are looking for in a job candidate.

Leigh Morris, Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh (RBGE) head of education and Institute of Horticulture (IoH) chairman, says: "My top tip would be to get experience. Two years in college does not necessarily make people employable. You need to get experience any way you can - even by volunteering." READ MORE
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