Training the border force

One of the most exciting parts of my job is training people to become professional horticulturists

Apprentice Ed WallingHorticulture attracts people from so many varied backgrounds as it has a huge range of skills that make up the discipline. At Hyde Hall we have people who’ve worked in finance, IT and administration, as well as the arts - and they have all been drawn to horticulture for the job satisfaction and the opportunity to work outdoors, helping develop a fantastic garden that is constantly evolving with new ideas.

Last year the RHS launched its new apprenticeship scheme, which is designed to attract young people into horticulture; teaching them the skills and knowledge to become professional horticulturists by working alongside our knowledgeable staff in the garden, as well as studying for an RHS Level 2 qualification.

Apprentice Martine BourgeOur first two apprentices have just completed their first year with us, and it has been really satisfying seeing them grow and develop over the last 12 months. They have learnt many practical skills including planting, pruning and hedge cutting. Underpinning these tasks are a lot of scientific principles which Ed and Martine learn during their day release at college, which puts the practical tasks into context.

Plant knowledge is one of the most integral parts of becoming a proficient horticulturist, and there is no easy way to learn plant names. Once you've got your head around the Latin it becomes easier, but regular plant identification tests are held to enable the apprentices and trainees to increase the range of plants they know; and more importantly start to learn about the plants: i.e. where they like to be grown, how they should be pruned, if they suffer from pest and diseases etc. It is only with this deep knowledge that gardens can be successfully designed and planted with the over-riding principle of choosing the right plant for the right place.

Recently two new apprentices have joined the team at RHS Garden Hyde Hall and it is very rewarding seeing someone who has never gardened professionally before be taught the skills to complete the tasks to a professional standard and at a professional speed! There is always a transition from gardening as a hobby to gardening professionally, and although the job is very rewarding, it is also a physically-demanding job which can take time to adjust to – for example working in all weathers from hot sun, to lashing rain, to cold frosty mornings when you can’t feel your fingers!

It is all worth it though, when you walk through the garden in high summer and see it in its full splendour and admire the contribution you have made to help create such a wonderful composition.

Discuss this

for the site or to share your experiences on this topic and seek advice from our community of gardeners.

Get involved

The Royal Horticultural Society is the UK’s leading gardening charity. We aim to enrich everyone’s life through plants, and make the UK a greener and more beautiful place.