Why get into horticulture?
If you’ve subjected yourself to watching any daytime TV over the past few years, you’ll have noticed that there are a fair few gardening programmes kicking about. A sign of the times? Definitely!
You’ll have also noticed that gardening and horticulture is by no means reserved for older generations anymore. As the ‘hide-behind-the-sofa-and-cringe’ days of Alan Titchmarsh and Charlie Dimmock become nothing more than a hazy, painful memory, more and more young people are starting to get involved.
Why is horticulture so important?
Plants are incredibly important. Not only do they provide us with oxygen and a source of food, but their beauty, smell and aesthetic vigour can provide the public with a welcoming multi-sensory experience! Public gardens and parks punctuate the fabric of the UK’s drab urban environments and provide an amazing break from the hustle and bustle of modern life!
Gardening and horticulture is not just a relaxing pastime for people looking to escape their busy lives. Nor is it simply a mild annoyance that you must endure when your father asks you to dig up the weeds in your Grandma’s vegetable patch, when you’d rather be playing Call of Duty: Black Ops on your Xbox.
In fact, if you’ve got a passion for plants and you’re fascinated by flowers, you can actually build a long and rewarding career in this area!
Horticultural careers are all about using your scientific knowledge of plants and soil to cultivate flowers, shrubs, fruits, vegetables, grass and other florae. This kind of plant husbandry is usually carried out in controlled environments for functional or commercial purposes.
Gardening careers usually focus on growing, cultivating, pruning and treating plants for aesthetic purposes. You are most likely going to be working outdoors on large estates that belong to wealthy landowners or gardens that are owned by publicly funded organisations, such as the National Trust.
Alternatively, you might be self-employed and offer services to private clients. Here, your gardening activities will most likely involve aspects of landscape and garden design.
What does gardening & horticulture encompass?
There’s a certain amount of crossover between the roles of all gardeners and horticulturists. However, each and every niche role in this area has its own intricacies and specific functions.
If you break into the world of commercial horticulture, you will be managing the cultivation of decorative plants, vegetables or fruit for profit-making purposes. This area of horticulture is all about using your expert science knowledge to optimise the production of plants in the most cost-effective way.
You will be working to ensure high yields and reducing the interference of pests and weeds, before marketing and selling your produce to garden centres, supermarkets and other clients. In this line of work, you might be using high-tech equipment to aid the cultivation process.
Amenity horticulturists work for the public good. You will find these guys working in public parks, gardens and conservation areas. Primarily these horticulturists are employed by local councils, government agencies, NGOs and environmental charities.
However, they might also be employed by private organisations to prune, cultivate and maintain private gardens or sports grounds.
These roles will also involve working in greenhouses and controlled environments to cultivate plants, flowers and shrubberies. However, this will not be done on a commercial scale. The role will also involve aspects of traditional gardening, maintenance, landscaping, garden design and working on land restoration projects.
Some expert horticulturalists even become horticultural consultants. These guys provide advice, guidance and support to commercial companies and public sector organisations.
Using their scientific knowledge and industry nous, they assist growers, environmental organisations and managers of parkland by offering technical and commercial suggestions that will provide solutions to their specific issues. They might be offering advice on all kinds of plant-related problems, from environmental impact and pesticides, to planting locations and the restoration of land areas.
A gardener’s career has many parallels with that of an amenity horticulturalist. Indeed, they are likely to be using their practical skills and creative skills to maintain, develop and refine public or private gardens.
However, gardeners usually have less of a scientific input in the growth of plants, flowers and other vegetation. They’re much more likely to be getting their hands dirty and carrying out hands-on practical work.
Some gardeners will have a certain amount of creative flair and knowledge of construction, and will use this to great effect throughout their career. These people might work as landscape gardeners who are responsible for transforming the gardens of private clients and public organisations.
Gardeners may be dealing with more than just plants and flowers on a daily basis; yep, they might even dabble in a bit of landscaping. Many gardeners will be getting involved with fence construction, laying patios and arranging garden furniture. For more detail on this aspect of gardening, check out the Landscaping subsector now!
There are many different routes into horticulture and gardening careers, and people from all academic backgrounds are eligible for this line of work.
Many gardeners and horticulturalists enter via an apprenticeship scheme; many undertake relevant BTECs, NVQs or other vocational qualifications in horticulture; and some people can even take degrees in subjects, such as environmental science, earth science or botanical sciences, before breaking into this industry.
The National Trust even has its own gardening trainee scheme run by the National Trust Academy.
One thing is clear with a career in horticulture and gardening: whatever route you choose to take, you’ll be planting the seeds of success in no time!