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Welcome to grow. The website for horticulture careers information.

  • Horticulture is where art, science, design and commerce meet – with challenging and rewarding careers no matter what your background or interests. (Credit: National Trust Picture Library – Paul Harris)
  • Parks and urban green spaces help cool temperatures, reduce wind speeds and absorb pollution and flood water.
  • Horticulture is creative, changes by the seasons and makes places interesting, vibrant and healthier.
  • A top-quality football pitch contains 150 – 200,000 leaf blades in every square metre. Every one of them needs skilled care and attention.
  • Nurturing a seed as it turns into a flower is watching a small miracle every day. Horticulture is full of magic and mystery.
  • 37 million people enjoy visiting and sitting under the 135,000 trees in London’s Royal Parks each year. All those trees need expert care and pruning.

Horticultural apprenticeships

Why do an apprenticeship?

Why go to university when you can earn bags of money without clocking up a huge graduate debt by learning a horticultural skill?


Apprenticeships are a good way to launch yourself into horticulture, freeing you to earn while you learn and combine academic study with on-the-job training and gritty work experience.


One- to four-year schemes run by local authorities are back in vogue while garden centres, botanic gardens and grounds-upkeep firms have put faith in a new generation of apprentices.


How do they work?


Apprentices earn money from day one, unlike graduates who are paying from day one. What’s more you will find yourself alongside workmates with years of experience.


They will help you work towards nationally recognised qualifications such as a diploma in garden retail at B&Q or an NVQ in groundskeeping from your favourite football club.


School leavers aged over 16 can apply, so why not check out the National Trust and Royal Parks, Capel Manor College or Kew Gardens, all of which take on – or train – apprentices?


And don’t forget, while your former schoolmates pay uni fees, you will earn at least £2.50 an hour. Many apprentices however earn more, up to £170 a week take-home pay. A good deal.


Apprenticeships are very hot news


Right now is a fantastic time to leap into learning on the job, with a little college work thrown in doing day or block-release coursework.


As one of the few areas of education and training not hit by government cuts, apprenticeships are thriving. The coalition has pledged to create more than 75,000 new places by 2015.


MPs have also called for a new “golden age of vocational training” and talk of creating a Royal Society of Apprentices similar to the Law Society or British Medical Association.


The City & Guilds Vocational Rich List, published in August 2011, revealed the fortunes of “skillionaires” who did apprenticeships not degrees rocketed to £17.6bn, up £1bn from 2008.


And according to a government study in 2007, those with a level 2 apprenticeship (equivalent to GCSE) earn more than £73,000 over their lifetime than those with fewer qualifications.


There is even a National Apprenticeship Week, between 6 and 10 February 2012, which puts employers in touch with apprenticeship programmes.


Funding and costs


The National Apprenticeship Service (NAS) covers the training of apprentices while the government funds the full cost of training youngsters aged between 16 and 18.


NAS also supports employers in recruiting and training a person up to and above the age of 25 including signposting them to providers and advising on the types of apprenticeship.


And it also manages apprenticeship vacancies – a free online recruitment tool that can be used to match apprentices to their prospective employers.


Alternatively, if you can’t find an employer in your area, give your local college a call to find out about training and funding. Some may be able be matchmaker for you and an employer.


What horticultural sectors and job titles are covered?


Forget the old tales of muddy boots and hour upon hour of hard manual graft.


Apprentices in horticulture lead exciting and varied working lives and are in high demand.


Horticulture in England alone employs almost 860,000 people with even more workers needed in the next few years to plug a skills gap across virtually all horticulture sectors.


These cover an enormous range of jobs to suit people keen on working outdoors and with plants but who are not afraid of science, technology and dealing with people.


Careers for apprentices in horticulture include fine-turf keeping, landscape design or construction and tree surgery, but you also learn general skills like IT and communications.


Amenity horticulture includes gardening for a council or private property. Landscaping meanwhile covers planning, design and maintenance of green spaces in towns and rural areas.


Jobs in the amenity sector include greenkeeper or gardener for local-authority sports pitches and parks, an apprentice in a historic house and garden or conservationist in a national park.


Production horticulture deals with large-scale growing of edible crops or ornamental plants for flower beds. Apprentices in this sector grow fruit, vegetables, flowers and trees for sale.


In this sector you could end up working in a small private nursery that grows flowers to sell to consumers and wholesalers or maybe a large fruit farm or grower of vegetables.



Apprentice profile


John Ledwidge


John Ledwidge did well in his school exams but university was not on the radar. The 16 year old wanted to be a groundsman for his favourite football club Coventry City.


He signed up as an apprentice to the midlands team after his GCSEs and within a year he was made deputy head groundsman. His rapid rise, he insists, was down to his apprenticeship.


“I was able to combine theoretical knowledge learned at college with the practical skills and knowhow gained in the workplace.


“This is invaluable as you can’t teach everything in the classroom. Also some people can understand knowledge better on the job than they might in a classroom.”


John joined Premier League club Aston Villa before returning to Coventry recently as rounds manager. His training has led to membership of the Institute of Groundsmanship.


“I came from learning the ropes to being involved in management. Aston Villa employs apprentices and without them and experienced staff there wouldn’t be much of a business.


“Apprentices bring to the workplace what they are learning at college – all the latest technologies that might not have been around or taught when you yourself started.


“This can only expand your business and help it grow. Apprentices offer something invaluable to the workplace and they are our future.”


•    Check out what John has to say in his video:



Apprentice profile


Dale Lewis


Dale Lewis is a high flier, but the regional manager for the Garden Centre Group, started his career 20 years ago as an apprentice.


He started working part time in a garden centre in Pembrokeshire, South Wales, aged 14, mixing compost and pushing trolleys. But when it came to A’levels at 16 he skipped school.


His apprenticeship lasted three years and by mixing week-long stints at college with his day-to-day work, he notched up a National Diploma in amenity horticulture.


Dale had to balance learning about propagating, grafting and spraying plants with flower identification tests and understanding the Latin lore of plant names.


Soon he became a plant area manager before moving to a garden centre in Swindon to take on management duties such as improving sales, handling budgets and controlling waste.


When his garden centre was taken over by Garden Centre Group, formerly Wyevale, he was made manager and tackled shop refits and sales as well as his first love, plants.


He is now manager for World’s End Garden Centre in Wendover, Buckinghamshire and a regional manager for the entire group of 119 garden centres in England and Wales.


“My biggest personal achievement was being voted manager of the year by the company, while the team was voted best plant-area sales team at a recent industry awards ceremony.”  


Youngster keen on breaking into garden retail need a good work ethic, commonsense and the ability to handle technology and people, he says.


Apprentice profile


John Porter

John Porter, who joined the Rainforest Biome team as a paid member of staff in September 2011, started his horticultural career as an apprentice at Eden.

A former tailor in Saville Row, John decided on a career change when the recession hit his company several years ago. After quitting the London life and heading for Cornwall he first signed up for our Taste of
Eden programme, a European Social Fund financed scheme to get people back into paid work, before he got a place as an Eden Horticultural Apprentice.

"The variety of the work has been great," he said. "I’ve loved my time in the Biomes, outdoors, in the nursery, learning everything from seed sowing to pruning."

Having only dabbled with gardening and been out of school for some 25 years, he said it was great to find a programme where he could "start from scratch. A Foundation Degree might have been too much for me."

Despite doing somewhat of a career u-turn, John realised that his previous experience nevertheless held him in good stead.

"Tailoring is a creative industry, but you must have good attention to detail – gardening has just the same high standards."






Botanic Gardens Conservation International – global umbrella group

Horticultural Trades Association – trade group for gardening sectors

Institute of Horticulture – advises on professional development

Lantra – Government skills council for land-based industries

Royal Horticultural Society – promotes horticulture to the public

Eden Project - offers paid apprenticeship programme leading to Level 2 Diploma in Work Based Horticulture


Horticulture Week – professional magazine with career and job details

National Apprenticeship Service – oversees work-based training

Not Going to Uni – careers advice for non-uni people

Pods4jobs – allows you to post CVs and videos

City & Guilds – overseas City & Guilds qualifications     


Professional groups


Arboricultural Association – professional group for tree surgeons

British and International Golf Greenkeepers’ Association – golfing group

Institute of Groundsmanship – main body for grounds keepers and managers

National Farmers Union - – farming union that also covers horticulture

Professional Gardeners – represents public and private gardens staff




English Heritage – government agency for 400 properties    

Historic Houses Association – looks after 1,500 houses and gardens

National Trust – conservation group for landscapes and houses    

Royal Parks – manages several well-known parks such as Hyde Park

Commonwealth War Graves Commission – a big employer of garden staff




Askham Bryan – campuses in Yorkshire and one in Cumbria

Capel Manor – several campuses across London

Kew Gardens – internationally renowned gardens based in west London

Merrist Wood – based in Guildford, Surrey

Pershore College -    part of Warwickshire College set in 60 acres of land

College of West Anglia - one of the largest training providers for the eastern region




B&Q – DIY chain with garden centres that train staff

Garden Centre Group – largest garden retailer in Britain runs an apprenticeship programme with Pershore College

Hillier – garden centre and nursery business with 14 retail stores

Klondyke – family run garden centres in England, Wales and Scotland

Grounds Maintenance

John O'Connor - offers grounds maintenance apprenticeships -


Find out what it's like to be a horticultural trainee with our bloggers:

Nell Jones is a trainee for English Heritage at the Chelsea Physic Garden - see her blog DIRTY FINGERNAILS

Patrick Burt is a trainee for the National Trust at Knightshayes Court, a walled Victorian kitchen garden. See his blog - A VIEW FROM THE SECRET GARDEN

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