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13 Jun 2018

Professional gardeners – an endangered species?

Written by Ann Steele - Head of Heritage Gardening
The garden team at Threave Garden
© Dumfries & Galloway Life
We’re stepping up the pace of our gardener training with a brand new Garden Apprenticeship to help meet the UK-wide shortage of professional gardeners for heritage gardens.

Did you know there’s a national shortage, in the UK, of people with the right blend of skills and experience to care for our heritage gardens? It’s actually a problem affecting the whole horticultural industry – from the science-side to the nursery trade.

The Trust has been nurturing talent for the industry for over 50 years through the School of Heritage Gardening at Threave, but the demand for top gardeners across the country now far outstrips those wanting to enter the profession.

The Trust has been nurturing talent for the industry for over 50 years at Threave Garden
The Trust has been nurturing talent for the industry for over 50 years at Threave Garden.

Having experienced this shortage ourselves, we’re piloting our own new Garden Apprenticeship programme to help increase the numbers at entry level. Applications are being sought now.

The programme is based on the Modern Apprenticeship in Horticulture at SVQ Level 2 and will start in early September 2018. Trainees will be part of the Trust’s gardening teams at Brodick, Crathes, Culzean, Greenbank or Hill of Tarvit/Kellie Castle for the next two years. They will all come together periodically for the formal part of the training, which will be delivered by SRUC at Oatridge College, West Lothian.

The SVQ units selected are aimed at heritage, botanic or private gardens – and we hope some of these organisations will join in too, feeling encouraged and enabled to take on their own apprentices.

A Threave student enjoying her training time
A Threave student enjoying her training time © Dumfries & Galloway Life

The Trust’s Head of Heritage Gardening, Ann Steele, is the instigator of this new initiative. ‘I came to professional gardening through the volunteering route at Inverewe myself’ she says, ‘but I had to go down south to study. I would have jumped at a chance like this when I was starting out in horticulture.’

Head Gardener at Culzean, Iain Govan, says: ‘I trained with the Trust at Threave in 2013 but had to begin somewhere else first. This new Garden Apprenticeship fills that gap for the next generation and I am looking forward to welcoming a trainee to our beautiful and historic garden, here on the Ayrshire coast.’

A Threave student hard at work
A Threave student hard at work

The Trust’s CEO Simon Skinner says: ‘Many of our gardens are in rural areas and we know how important it can be when we are able to create new opportunities like this. We are delighted to be able to launch this programme, particularly in the Year of Young People 2018.’

The closing date for applications is Monday 9 July 2018.

Trust Gardens and The Garden Apprenticeship Scheme are generously supported by donors with a real interest in our gardens and those who do the gardening. These generous gifts demonstrate the power of philanthropy to this important area of our work.

If you’d like to donate to our projects and provide vital support where we need it most, or learn more about our charity work: