Ok, I confess!  I don’t actually work in the horticultural industry.

I fell into an IT career and it pays very well, so I have no plans to change direction.  But you never know what’s around the corner, right?

I’ve always loved growing stuff right from being a tiny kid.  I can remember helping my dad sow potatoes in our back garden – I was two years old and I had the important task of handing my dad the seed potatoes from a big bucket for him to place in the trench.  He didn’t notice that as he was working his way along the trench, I was collecting up the ones he had just sown and putting them back in the bucket.  Only when he reached the end of a long trench and looked back did he realise what I was doing!

Both my granddads had allotments and were heavily into growing veg too.  When I was a teenager, I grew tomatoes for the first time and I proudly showed my grandad the developing fruits.  He whipped out his penknife and started cutting back some of the foliage, explaining the fruits needed maximum light to ripen.

So, hort’s in the genes, right!

Then about 7 years ago, I went on a Ray Mears Woodlore course and learnt more about trail food and how to build shelters, make string from nettles, soap from birch leaves, wound dressing from sphagnum moss, carve fire drills etc.  The realisation that plants provide everything we need fuelled a much deeper interest in ethnobotany.

shelter string hand drill

Please take a peek at my Desert Ethnobotany pics on Flickr:


Fast-forward a couple of years and the inevitable happened….. I decided I wanted a horticultural career and so I’d need a reputable hort qualification.  The options available to me were very limited, as I was working full-time. However, I discovered that Kingston Maurward Agricultural College offered RHS courses as an evening study option, which was perfect for me.  Let’s face it, everyone knows The RHS and their qualifications are well respected.

I enrolled 4 weeks late (I like a challenge!) and to cut a very long story short, I passed with flying colours!  Some students seemed to struggle, especially with the science aspects, but I suspect they didn’t apply themselves to studying outside the classroom.  Whereas, I studied every evening, making revision notes and gleaning every possible piece of horticultural information that I could, not least from links in tweets!  At weekends, I visited garden centres and RHS Wisley, Rosemoor, Hyde Hall and all the big shows.  I’m sure my commitment was driven by the fact I had paid for my own studies, whereas the others were sponsored by their employers.  I never missed a class, but some of the others attended only occasionally.

Ok, I’m qualified now, so why didn’t I switch to a horticultural career after all?  Simple….money!  The horticultural industry simply doesn’t pay enough, in comparison to other professional careers.  Let’s not forget it IS a profession, just because we love doing it doesn’t mean it’s of little financial value.  Horticulturalists train for a minimum of 2 years to get qualified and sometimes up to 7 years; that’s as much as a Doctor!  Yet the financial reward is paltry in comparison.  I can hear some cry “but there’s more to life than money!” and that’s very true, but we live in the real world with bills and financial obligations that must be met.

So, for now, I think I have the best of both worlds.  I’m well-paid and able to enjoy horticulture for my own pleasure.  Indeed, my holidays now have horticulture and ethnobotany at their heart and my latest trips to the USA involved trips to the following places, go have a nosey at their websites!

The Desert Botanical Garden   http://www.dbg.org/

Idaho Botanic Garden    http://idahobotanicalgarden.org/

Bellevue Botanic Garden  http://www.bellevuebotanical.org/

Chihuly Garden & Glass   http://www.chihulygardenandglass.com/

University of California Botanical Garden  http://botanicalgarden.berkeley.edu/

San Francisco Botanical Garden   http://www.sfbotanicalgarden.org/

Like I said at the beginning, I’m not actively pursuing a horticultural career, but you never know what’s around the corner!

  • I totally agree with you. I would love to jump ship to horticulture but as a single parent who has struggled to get to the financial position I am in I don’t want to take a step back financially. I love horticulture and like you it drives my choice of holiday destinations etc but I think sticking to my current career which I enjoy and is well paid keeps my enthusiasm in horticulture alive

    November 25, 2014
    • diana stapley

      Thank for the comment Helen. So relieved I’m not the only one!

      November 26, 2014
  • I my self have been in the Industry for over 20 years . Now working as self employed gardener.
    I totally agree with you Diana with all the training that we get the Government still recognises my trade as a blue collar work and thus pay out the same money as all Industries in that sector.
    Even worse is that since late 1970s when the late Maggie Thatcher was in power most of our amenities where sold out to private contractors who paid even worse.
    Luckly I was able to get out then and start up up on my own .
    Also I believe that Education is partly to blame ( well it was in my day ) when basic horticulture wasn’t even included in the curriculum.And was given the same status as career for non academics.
    I truly believe that if the these two issues where to sorted out It would attract more young people into the field and not be left to be a dying industry that no one recognises

    March 6, 2016
  • I totally agree with you Diane,
    I have been in the Amenity sector of horticulture for over 19 years . And have witnessed it decline through the years from Badly run local run Authorities to privation.
    I now work as a self employed gardener.
    The problem with horticulture is that it isn’t recognized as a highly trained skill by the government and by the general public.
    I my self spent 3 yrs on a day release studying for the City and Guilds . before that all gardeners had to go on to local gardening course to increase our grade to get a better result in pay.
    And yet horticulture is still looked at as a blue collar career and thus paid as such.
    And yet the government wonder why the industry is failing
    I also believe education is to blame ( well it was in my day ) where it wasn’t even coincided a career.
    If it was being taught into schools then the non academics and school levers at least had a choice

    March 6, 2016

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