Mark Reeve

Kent Life - - Garden Life -

Cus­tomer ser­vice man­ager, Cool­ings of Knock­holt

Mark Reeve is the cus­tomer ser­vice man­ager and plant doc­tor at Cool­ings Gar­den Cen­tre in Knock­holt and has honed his keen in­ter­est since a teenager into a ca­reer. He en­joys be­ing in­volved with plants, feel­ing the soil on his hands and be­ing out in the fresh air and sun­shine while help­ing peo­ple find the ‘right plant, for the right place’.

What ad­vice would you give? Try to get ex­pe­ri­ence if you can when you’re at school, even if it’s get­ting a Satur­day job at a nurs­ery or gar­den cen­tre. Many peo­ple started out that way who are now high up on the lad­der. Col­leges such as Had­low, Per­shore or Writ­tle will do part­time cour­ses or block cour­ses, which are the best way to get some hor­ti­cul­tural qual­i­fi­ca­tions and prac­ti­cal ex­pe­ri­ence.

Be able to deal with peo­ple and don’t mind that you have to muck in oc­ca­sion­ally. Ex­pe­ri­ence isn’t gained overnight and you will learn from mis­takes, although hope­fully not make them again!

Where do you see the needs? There seems to be a lack of skilled and qual­i­fied younger peo­ple now as there was a pe­riod where the hor­ti­cul­tural col­leges didn’t have a good in­take of stu­dents.

Op­por­tu­ni­ties I think lie in the re­tail side of things rather than big pri­vate gar­dens; there does seem to be a big de­mand for gar­den­ers for small gar­dens where peo­ple don’t have much leisure time as they work long hours. They re­ally don’t want to be com­ing home af­ter the com­mute to mow the lawn or weed the bor­ders. Gar­den de­signer, nurs­ery owner and RHS judge, Roger Platts has had a love of hor­ti­cul­ture since child­hood, which led to for­mal train­ing, work ex­pe­ri­ence in nurs­eries and then set­ting up his own busi­ness in Eden­bridge.

What ad­vice would you give?

Con­sider what it is about the in­dus­try that in­ter­ests you the most, whether it is grow­ing plants, gar­den cen­tres, nurs­eries, gar­den de­sign, amenity gar­den­ing or land­scap­ing.

Con­tact or­gan­i­sa­tions such as Hor­ti­cul­tural Col­leges, The RHS and The Na­tional Trust, Gar­den De­sign cour­ses and trade bod­ies such as APL, HTA and BALI to see what cour­ses are avail­able and ask them where the train­ing may lead in terms of an ul­ti­mate job.

Which­ever path you choose to take I think it is im­por­tant to have prac­ti­cal ex­pe­ri­ence deal­ing with plants at an early stage, so work­ing in a nurs­ery or a large gar­den is a very good way to start out. There are some good cour­ses run by gar­den­ing or­gan­i­sa­tions, which com­bine train­ing with work­ing, some full time and oth­ers part time.

Which skills are most im­por­tant?

As in any ca­reer, you need com­mu­ni­ca­tion skills and a com­mer­cial un­der­stand­ing. The spe­cial­ist skills re­quired de­pend upon the area of hor­ti­cul­ture, but all as­pects ben­e­fit from a good plant knowl­edge, in­clud­ing an un­der­stand­ing of soils and grow­ing con­di­tions.

Mark Reeve at Cool­ings Gar­den Cen­tre

Roger Platts has a multi-faceted ca­reer in hor­ti­cul­ture

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