• Friday, April 19, 2024


‘Growing sector’ offers options for fruitful horticulture career

There are excellent career opportunities in horticulture, according to the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS), which is offering free online tips with talks by experts from January 22-26

Emma Tamsin Tipping from London with the garden Come Lime With Me at the Tatton Flower Show

By: Amit Roy

ASIAN parents traditionally want their children to become doctors, lawyers or engineers and, if all else fails, prime ministers and home secretaries.

But now there are excellent career opportunities in horticulture, according to the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS), which is offering free online tips with talks by experts from January 22-26.

The RHS has also revealed some of its plans for this year’s Chelsea Flower Show, which will be held from May 21-25.

Last year the RHS and Eastern Eye entered into a partnership to produce a ‘Garden of Unity’. It has now gone to the Sacred Heart RC Primary School in Battersea, London, where it will be nurtured by children aged three to 11.

This year’s show will include a National Trust garden named after one of its founders, Octavia Hill (1838-1912), who was a pioneering social reformer.

“Conceptually located on an urban brownfield site, this beautiful, plant-filled wildlife garden is designed to stimulate physical, mental, and social wellbeing,” the RHS said. “The garden increases urban biodiversity and encourages visitors to make intimate connections with plants and wildlife.

“It is built around open-air sitting rooms, where visitors feel like they are part of nature. A timber retaining wall and hand-carved seating provide multiple views over the wildlife, feasting on the pollinator-friendly planting.

“A steel-lattice canopy structure in the pattern of a dragonfly wing, forms a habitat hub for the wider garden – along with bird boxes hung within the trees which trail through the space.

“A contemporary wildlife pond and walkable stream add to the habitats of the garden, and fills the space with the calming sound of running water.

“Spires of digitalis and trailing geranium create a rich planting palette. Several edible species are included, primarily as food sources for wildlife, and for foraging. All have been included for their ornamental as well as productive values.”

Other entries will demonstrate the power of gardens to help physical and mental health.

In India, the medicinal properties of plants have been recognised for thousands of years. That knowledge is now influencing the west as well.

The RHS pointed out that “the Bowel Research UK Microbiome Garden by Sid Hill and Chris Hull champions growing for gut health, offering a probiotic feast in the form of an edible wildflower meadow.

A gardener at RHS Wisley

“Sweet dock, lupins, and camassia feature heavily for their gut-positive qualities as the garden explores the connection between soil health, plant life and the human microbiome.”

Helena Pettit, RHS director of shows, commercial and innovation, said: “There is such a broad spectrum of ideas running through the ‘All About Plants gardens’ this year and it’s great to see new takes on old trends coming to life in the designs.

“Whether you garden for your own health, the health of the planet or just for the joy of it, these gardens have something for everyone with inspiration for gardeners to try something new.”

Meanwhile, the RHS careers discovery week “aims to inspire people of all ages and backgrounds from school leavers to career changers, and those who are already studying or employed in industry, to broaden their horizons and career aspirations. There will also be the opportunity to learn how to start out on a career journey with learning and training opportunities available at the RHS.

“Each day will include a variety of live talks by individuals working in the industry, including RHS alumni and current students, who can share their career journey, give insights into their role and provide tips and advice on getting into particular areas of the sector.”

Dr Suzanne Moss, RHS director of learning and public engagement, said: “Horticulture is a growing and changing sector in need of fresh talent and up-to-date skills. A career in horticulture can be exciting and rewarding, particularly at a time when we recognise the increasing need to protect our natural environment.

“The Horticulture Careers Discovery Week is an exciting opportunity to lift the lid on the industry and demonstrate to people far and wide that there are ample routes into the sector, whatever your background. We hope that this packed programme will leave people feeling inspired and empowered to pursue a fulfilling career in this field.”

Justin Richards and Lydia Mathews will speak on January 22 about “where bigbudget movies like Barbie, Jurassic World and The Little Mermaid get their physical sets built to resemble the location or environment in which the scene takes place”.

Sheila Das

Dr Andrew Salisbury, Helen Latham and Tracey Bull will discuss plant health the next day (23): “With increased focus on sustainability, biodiversity and environmental issues, a career in plant science has never been more important.”

The same day, Gem Morson and Liz Mooney will suggest how growing your own fruit and vegetables can be turned into a viable career.

The following day, January 24, Faye Howell, community grow horticulturist at the RHS garden in Bridgewater in Salford, will explain to children aged seven to 11 how to “explore the world of horticulture and the type of roles available within the sector, from plant breeding, research, garden design, floristry, landscape construction and much more”.

Later, therapists Ed Bowring and Katie Andrews will “share the growing value and practice of horticulture therapy to those who are most vulnerable”.

Horticulture can lead to a career in the media as well.

Also on that Wednesday, Pippa Greenwood, gardening expert, plant pathologist and a familiar voice on BBC Radio 4’s Gardeners’ Question Time, will talk about “her journey into horticulture and what life is really like working in front of the camera and on the radio”.

On January 25, Lucy Chamberlain will reveal how she went from being a head gardener to a freelance writer, author and podcaster, while Emma Tamsin Tipping will talk about garden design – “what it takes to create an outdoor space to help people get the best out of their garden for their specific needs and budget”.

Tipping, whose balcony garden design earned a gold medal at last year’s Chelsea Flower Show, said: “I’m so excited to be talking about my career in gardening and garden design so far, including my experiences taking part in RHS Flower Shows. I took a slightly unusual route into garden design so I hope that hearing about my journey helps others who might be thinking about a career in this field.”

Asian parents need not worry – these days horticulture does offer real degrees and “proper jobs”.

A group of 2022 graduate students will participate in a session chaired by Sheila Das – who has a Bengali father and English mother – RHS garden manager at Wisley, Surrey:

“The RHS offers a twoyear fully paid Level 3 and Level 4 diploma in horticultural practice qualification at RHS Garden Wisley.” The RHS said: “With no previous experience or horticultural qualifications necessary to apply, apprenticeships are a brilliant starting point for people of all ages to launch their career in horticulture. Delivered at all five RHS Gardens, apprentices gain essential hands-on horticultural skills and knowledge to prepare for life in the industry.”

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