A passion for gardening
Ever thought about turning your interest into a career? Eight Kent
horticultural experts reveal the many opportunities on offer
Did you know that the horticultural industry is one of the largest employers in the UK? A career in horticulture could mean anything from a hands-on gardener, a garden designer, grower or garden centre For Viv Hunt, head gardener at Godinton House and Gardens, it was the joy of working with plants and the desire to get out of London, working in stuffy modelmaking workshops, that led her to change her career.
“I think a lot of people get into their 30s or 40s, the dreaded midlife crisis, and want to change direction,” she says.
“There are so many varied opportunities in horticulture; it’s a career you can take in any direction that suits you.”
What does your job include? As head gardener I do a bit of everything: managing and training a team of gardeners and volunteers, planning planting and designing borders, presenting the gardens to tour groups and school groups, running gardening workshops and seasonal events and of course maintaining the gardens along with the rest of the team.
I really enjoy having a varied day and working with other people who get a kick out of making a beautiful garden.
manager, to a research scientist.
There are many opportunities out there, whether you are a student looking for a study path or a sea-changer wanting to turn a passion into a career. January is a great time to assess your life and make New Year resolutions The most challenging part? Gardens naturally change constantly and you are always planning for the future and thinking ahead, but I think the most challenging part of any job is how you communicate with and motivate other people and that’s no less true in horticulture.
What career advice would you give?
I started by volunteering at a local National Trust property and then took a course at a horticultural college while working in a large private garden. I’d always advise some formal training as it opens up so many more opportunities and usually gives you a network of contacts and support. The most important skills are flexibility – both in attitude and physically.
Where are the opportunities? There is certainly plenty of work in the South East for well-trained gardeners both in maintenance and design and I think that there is much better recognition these days of the skills involved and that salaries should reflect that.
Volunteering at Godinton We now have a place for a Professional Gardeners Guild to maybe do something you’ve always had a hankering for.
Meet some of the professionals working in the Garden of England to learn what they love about the industry, where they think the opportunities are, and let them inspire you to join them. trainee each year, which is a full-time position with accommodation, and we have a large team of volunteers, some of whom are studying the RHS courses with local colleges or by distance learning.
We try to make sure that they are involved in a variety of work in the garden and we include them in plant identification training, which we do with the PGG student each week.
BELOW: Viv Hunt