There is a lot more to Horticulture than first meets the eye, especially in the production side of industry and being educated and experienced in that technology will help in securing that dream job.
Head Gardener, Regent's Place London
As a child, I had always had a strong love affair with the plant world. When I was 16, I followed the standard path and began my A levels at sixth form - after three weeks I found this wasn’t for me and a friend mentioned Hadlow College. I was lucky enough to still be within the acceptance period for that year. Within a week of applying, I was in and on my new course, the National Diplomas in Horticulture - and as the saying goes, I never looked back. That decision was the first day of the rest of my life!
I went on to further my education with successfully completing an HND in Garden Design and then a BSc in Commercial Horticulture at Hadlow College.
I chose Hadlow for two reasons: one, because of it close proximity to home and because of its strong teaching force and industry connections.
Hadlow played a huge part in my life, with some of my fondest memories being my Student Presidential year and being runner up in the Horticulturalist of the Year local heat. All have helped shape me into the modern thinking horticulturalist I am. It’s not just about learning at Hadlow, it’s about living, experiencing and inspiring every aspect of your life.
Trying to pinpoint my favourite aspect [of studying at Hadlow College] is hard; I would say a few aspects of the course that I enjoyed were:
- The small class sizes allowed a better quality of teaching.
- The industry links that we had within Horticulture, such as Thanet Earth.
- The varied and wide range of trips to see industry, for example in our final year, Alan Harvey took us all to Iceland to see Icelandic food production. What an amazing eye-opener to how technology in horticulture is changing the world. This is a country with cold, harsh conditions, using volcanic energy and modern tech such as L.E.D and hydroponics to grow everything from salad to bananas. The highlight, however, was standing on the Icelandic peninsula with my classmates watching the Northern Lights - that is a memory I will always cherish.
Commercial Horticulture and the Horticultural industry in general is massively understaffed. Having a degree within the subject definitely helps in securing a better job. There is a lot more to Horticulture than first meets the eye, especially in the production side of industry and being educated and experienced in that technology will help in securing that dream job. But one word of advice: try and find a work placement within your chosen area, because if you have that and the degree, you will place yourself above everyone.
My career since leaving Hadlow has been a massive whirlwind. It’s full-on and never stops! Before leaving Hadlow, it was embedded into us that you must network and do what you are good at to rise quickly in your career, and that’s exactly what I’ve done. I knew I had to go to London to work, as that’s where the urban horticulture revolution in Britain is happening. Urban horticulture captured my imagination from day one and I knew that was where I needed to be.
I took every opportunity that I could get involved in: I networked like crazy and made as much noise as I could; social media has also been a very powerful tool in allowing me to do this. I now reside as Head Gardener for Regent’s Place in London under the company Gavin Jones, an industry leader. Separately, I’m involved in large amounts of charity work with the Horticultural charity Perennial, which I won an award for last year.
Fundamentally, as Head Gardener for Regent’s Place - the UK home to Facebook and many other big companies – my role is to keep the grounds green and healthy, designing the flower displays. I have a close working relationship with the client, driving well-being, future-proofing and ethical practice as well as writing our blog and building the urban horticultural brand of Regent’s Place.
My biggest piece of advice would be to network, network, network and do what you’re good at. We are working in a very large industry and everyone has a unique place. Stop and think: what do you love and what makes you different? This will aid you in creating a successful career and future in what is, if you’ll pardon the pun, a blooming industry.
Finally, if you can cope working in the city, it’s a great place to start, as it teaches you how the world works. If you can work in London under the pressures and challenges it throws at you, you can work anywhere. It’s hard going, but totally worth it.