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Beginning a career in gardening



  • @Liriodendron thank you so much for this it’s given me a huge confidence boost! I’ve just turned 31 and worried that I had left a career change such as this a little late! 
  • micearguersmicearguers Posts: 637
    edited February 2021
    Regarding pruning, I forget the recommended timing all the time.  There are different types of pruning, pruning for fruiting, restorative pruning, winter pruning, summer pruning, plants that bleed, plants that get infections. I scour the internet and write findings in a pruning calendar. This is useful for my own garden, as I just have to look at the calendar to see what's coming up. It's not helpful per se if someoneo asks you about a random plant, but creating the calendar and adding to it will teach the general principles (e.g. many shrubs are best pruned after flowering), and I agree with @Hostafan1 " I don't know , but I'll find out ". In my calendar I don't just jot down the name of the shrub or tree, I write short descriptions of what and why; it looks like this:

    5 Clematis Montana (group 1 late spring after flowering)
    5-6 Ceratostigma Willmottianum (mid to late spring)
    5-6 Ficus carica (prune new branches back to 5 or 6 leaves.)
    9 Acer capillipes (later summer)
    9 Ficus carica (pick off larger unripe figs (not the little pea-sized fruits)

    Pruning is not something that has to be done, there needs to be a reason to prune, foremost diseased, damaged, awkard and crossing branches. For this type of pruning more often than not "the time to prune is when the secateurs are sharp". Some other classes of pruning off the top of my head:
    • rejuvenate multi-shrubs by taking out old branches back to the base.
    • hedges and topiary
    • something is in the wrong place and too big - pruning is not a proper fix unless it can be transformed using niwaki, or into a hedge or topiary.
    • roses
    • fruiting trees and shrubs
    • crown lifting
    • etc etc
    Bit of a rambling post. I am far from an expert on pruning, but this describes how I've built up experience/confidence.

  • @micearguers thanks for the advice :smile: could do that for any garden and would probably begin to remember each plant :smile: 

    With regards to your list of pruning requirements, what do the numbers at the beginning indicate?
  • @margaret005 sorry should have said - they indicate the number of month.
  • When I was at college two days per week I got a job at a garden centre. I was the subordinate to the woman in charge of the planteria (yes, they do spell it like that). I had to look after the A-Z shrubs, so I learnt the information on the back plates as I could but like @Liriodendron I always dug out the RHS volumes and referred to them.

    It does help to have a mentor who can either teach you on the job or give you face to face guidance by showing you what they do in their garden. You will never know everything - that's the joy of gardening.

    Become a "friend' of a local garden could prove invaluable. For example, I am a friend of The Savill Garden and, until Covid, they hosted many meetings, including twice yearly guided walks lead by the experienced garden staff. Plants are often talked about in context e..g planting in a dry garden, bog garden, shady area, etc.

    Finally, I was 30 when I started my course. I expect you will be relatively young compared with many pursuing horticulture as a second career.
  • WonkyWombleWonkyWomble Posts: 4,509
    Hello @margaret005
    I've been a keen gardener since I was child growing up on a small holding i had plenty of experience in growing things and with wildlife. From then I'd always gardened and developed a real passion for it. 

     When I decided I wanted to make it my career i was forty years old. I worked as an assistant to a local gardener that had a round then when I'd learnt enough,  got a job on a large private estate with many different aspects I could learn from.  This includes a walled kitchen garden on a huge scale,  a rose garden,  cutting garden, orchard, citrus house,  woodland,  lakes and ponds and much more. Although it was practically slave labour,  I learned a huge amount.

    I set up self employed in April of last year. So according to the chancellor I don't qualify for any government assistance during covid, yet he still wanted my tax at the end of last month! That's another story!

    I've built up a round locally with some lovely customers. Some like the company and garden with me while we chat.  Some leave me to do what I know needs doing,  some leave lists.  

    No gardener knows everything,  have the resources to find out.  I have a fantastic series of reference books, I read constantly, ask questions,  watch good gardening programs.

    You will probably find an area of the subject that you prefer and the knowledge is often retained more easily if it really interests you. 

    It's hard work,  my hands ache in the cold! Rain isn't fun,  nor is snow!
    But before I was working 50 hours a week then coming home and being a housewife and cooking from scratch,  shopping,  cleaning.... and I hated my job!
    Now I work less, but have more time and am doing something I love.  Your passion and enthusiasm will overcome your inexperience. Best of luck and if you have any questions,  please ask 😀
  • I would suggest volunteering at a local National Trust garden or similar if you can. This will give you good experience of what it is like to work in a garden that isn’t your own and as you should be overseen by a trained gardener you will be learning at the same time.

    There are lots of different jobs in horticulture so, if you haven’t already done so, I also suggest starting to look at job vacancies to give you a feel of the range ( is a good site). You will also get a feel for the type of salaries/hours.

    As has been said it’s good to have a mentor or be in a job where you will be trained when starting off. 

    If you know that garden maintenance is what you want to do, I suggest seeing if you can get a job with a reputable local firm. If it’s real gardening you like then check that is what they offer. For example we have a local firm which requires its staff to be RHS qualified and offers a gardening service - they do not trim hedges or lawns - so are all about maintaining borders, pruning, good plant care etc. 

    From my own work experience, some focus on lawns, hedges and weeding. And many customers won’t want or value proper gardening skills or horticultural knowledge. They want a tidy garden and shrubs trimmed to be tidy irrespective of when is the right time and all done quickly so they pay as little as possible. 

    I worked for both types during my college holidays (having a career break in my forties). Both were hard physical work, especially as @WonkyWomble says in the cold and wet. The latter was an eye opener as to how little some people value gardening skills , the former was much more enjoyable and I worked in some lovely gardens.

    You definitely are not too old. From my college experience there are lots of people who move into horticulture as a second career. 
     If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need.”—Marcus Tullius Cicero
    East facing, top of a hill clay-loam, cultivated for centuries (7 years by me). Birmingham
  • @WonkyWomble ... don’t forget the time you spent working as the only woman on a garden/grounds maintenance team  ... this updated your skills working with machinery and heavy tools, and of course some H&S stuff. That job was tough but at least you knew that having done that you could tackle almost anything. 👍 

    Gardening in Central Norfolk on improved gritty moraine over chalk ... free-draining.

  • WonkyWombleWonkyWomble Posts: 4,509
    Very good advice @Butterfly66
    You are very true in what you say about how little some people value gardening knowledge.  A lot of customers just want someone that can wield a hedgecutter and a mower. You wouldn't believe the amount of people I've had to teach to just water their pots.  They think cuz is rained a pot won't need water...

    It's also worth mentioning that some customers think that gardens don't need maintaining in winter months and I presume they believe that their gardeners just go into hibernation until said customer wants to be out there again!

    With the majority of my customers I took on under the condition that the work continues in the winter months or they lose their slot come spring.  I also have a small sideline of doing some ironing work from home for terrible weather days just as back up. 
  • AnniDAnniD Posts: 12,460
    @margaret005, at 31 you are a mere youngster ! Excellent advice already and not much l can add except to say that l would think far more of a gardener who admitted they weren't sure of something and would check, than one who just hacked away at things.
    Having seen some of the "gardeners" at work in my neighbours' gardens,  l wonder how they have the nerve to use the description.
    Good luck :)  
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