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.
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!