Welcome to grow. The website for horticulture careers information.
TV presenter and garden designer Chris Beardshaw tells the story of how his career progressed, from planting seeds as a boy to starring on some of the most popular gardening programmes on television today, and explains why he would never work in any other industry than horticulture…
Q. What’s the secret of a successful career in horticulture?
A. Persistence and patience. And love your subject - if you are genuinely enthusiastic about something it will get you an awfully long way.
Q. How did you end up as a TV presenter on gardening programmes?
A. I went back to Pershore College, but this time as lecturer teaching on horticulture and design courses. While I was doing that I was asked to contribute to a number of television programmes including House Call, Gardening Neighbours and Weekend Gardener.
I then left full time lecturing to concentrate on TV work fronting or co-hosting programmes such as The Flying Gardener and Gardeners' World.
I now run my own practice and split my work amongst designing, lecturing, broadcasting, writing and campaigning. I will, however, always remain a gardener at heart.
Q. How did you become a designer?
A. I studied Landscape Architecture at Cheltenham University and then I took up a placement at a practice working on public schemes across the country.
Q. What made you realise you wanted to become a garden designer?
A. One of my jobs at the wholesale nursery was going to shows and setting up the stand. At that time trade stands used to just be loads of plants placed on upturned builders pallets and I started creating gardenesque displays. I noticed how it affected people – a creative display could really stimulate people’s interest.
Q. What did you do when you left school?
A. When I was 16 I applied to my local horticultural college, Pershore, but before I could start there I had to do a year of practical work. So I spent twelve months at the nursery I had been working at since I was 11.
I went to Pershore and studied horticulture for three years. Then I left to work for a large wholesale nursery, doing research and marketing.
Q. Who inspired you?
A. The local nurseryman I worked for, Archie Warr, became my mentor. He was a quietly spoken man, who was passionate about growing showy plants like dahlias, chrysanthemums and begonias.
He took extra time to answer my questions and to explain why he was doing things in a certain way. If any interesting deliveries came in he would call me outside to show me unusual plants. I worked at the nursery on and off from the age of 11 until I was 22.
Q. What courses did you take at school?
A. Because I knew what I wanted to do from an early age I took the right O’Levels [what GCSEs used to be called] for a career in horticulture, including geology, geography and biology.
The careers officer at my school didn’t know what horticulture was or how to get into it, so if I hadn’t known what I wanted I might have ended up cutting hair!
Q. How did you get started in horticulture?
A. I honestly never wanted to do anything else except work with plants. It started off when I was given a packet of seeds aged four and I thought it was amazing watching these apparently inert objects bursting into life.
As soon as I could, aged 11, I started working in a local nursery and I started collecting plants – filling my parent’s garden with random species. They’ve probably cursed me ever since.
Q. Why do you think horticulture is a great career?
A. Because there is such diversity - you can be a hands-on gardener, a hard core plant scientist or a garden designer like me.You can even get on TV if that’s what you are interested in doing!
Recent research has shown that many young people think horticulture is another word for farming and that it’s only done by old people, which is a shame as it’s actually a lot more than that. It’s a contemporary, challenging career and there are people with incredible skills and energy involved.
Horticulture can have such a positive effect – as well as the personal enjoyment you can get out of growing plants, there are also social benefits. Green spaces and trees planted in towns can even reduce crime levels.
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