The secrets behind a career in Horticulture

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We are kicking off #NationalGardeningWeek by delving deeper into the secrets and interesting facts behind pursuing a career in Horticulture. We have been working alongside Jean Lanham from The Good Garden to find out more about her views on employing young people, the skills needed to achieve a successful career in horticulture and what the strangest thing she has ever found when digging up a clients garden is! Here is what she had to say…

What part of your job do you enjoy the most?

I really enjoy the variety of tasks and jobs there are in the world of gardening. It’s not just mowing the lawn, there is everything from working in a nursery potting up plants and sowing seeds, working heavy machinery in landscaping, building wooden structures like trellises of pergolas, pruning and trimming shrubs and trees or office jobs like drawing plans. There’s something for everyone. I also enjoy the fact that I meet lots of different people all the time whether its clients or suppliers of products.

What parts of your job do you least enjoy?

The office jobs and having to work on the computer.

What is your planning process for the design of a garden?

It’s important to establish what the client needs and this takes several conversations. We need to find out how much their budget is and then start drawing up a plan for the hard and soft landscaping. It’s very important to survey a garden first and that is another skill. You need to know what kind of soil there is and whether the garden is sloping so that you can factor this into the design. Some plants need particular types of soil, so it’s important to choose the correct plants. The design process can take several weeks as there has to be quite a lot of dialogue before an agreed design is produced.

What has your experience been of recruiting a young person?

Very positive. If they are keen to learn, it is constructive experience as the young person generally has little previous work experience to draw on so it means that if they are trained well they learn good practice from the very beginning of their working life.

What have you found to be the benefits of employing a young person?

They are generally keen to learn and quickly understand that every hour counts with regards to earning so they generally work very productively.

What skills do you look for in a young person?

Keen to learn, fit, energetic, polite and respectful, good at time management, listening skills, ability to follow instructions accurately, communication skills.

Have there been any disadvantages of employing a young person?

They obviously lack experience although I wouldn’t regard this as a disadvantage. They may not have the same attitude towards client relationship management as the owner or manager of the business has but they can quickly learn from observation how to deal with people. Sometimes young people give the impression they don’t want to be there which can give the client a bad impression. It’s therefore important to show that they really do want to learn and work.

Do you offer Work Experience?

I could do in some aspects of the business.

What advice would you give to a young person wanting to start a career in gardening?

I would suggest they get a part time job with a well-respected gardening company. They should try and study horticulture in general whether it’s online or attending a college which gives them practical experience too as this is very important. There are also lots of great television programmes and online resources for learning through such as the Royal Horticulture Society (RHS). Also I would advise they visit famous gardens through the National Trust which is a great way of learning. Shadowing professionals is also a great way to learn.

and finally…

What is the strangest thing you have ever found when digging up a clients garden?!

A wee plastic cow!! I found her when I was doing my first big job and she sits on my desk to remind me that I got through that huge job clearing a very overgrown and mucky garden. She’s my lucky mascot now as the jobs have been getting bigger and better since!

Some of The Good Garden’s work can be seen below:


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