Career changers are crucial to keeping Britain's gardens alive, RHS director-general Sue Biggs has insisted.
At last week's RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show, the charity brought together TV presenter Monty Don and garden designers Cleve West and Jo Thompson to speak about their career changes into gardening.
Don said he became a gardener "by accident" and is really a writer who sometimes speaks to camera. He said his "fierce" mother gave him jobs to do that he "hated" in his Hampshire childhood garden but it was an "apprenticeship". At 17 Don had a "feeling of almost ecstasy" planting carrot seed in chalky soil and decided there was "nothing else in the world he wanted" apart from to become a gardener.
But he did not know how, so became a jeweller until his firm collapsed. Then Don, who had written a garden column, received a call from TV's This Morning in 1988 with the offer of £100 to turn up in Manchester for a screen test. He got the job and his career snowballed. "If you feel that break could come, grab it," he advised.
West gave up his dream of becoming an Olympic athlete to train at Kew, while Thompson was a drama teacher before training at the English Garden School.
Biggs said: "It's for people to consider changing careers if they're fed up with being stuck behind a desk." The RHS advised looking at the Grow Careers website (www.growcareers.info) for advice.
RHS gardens - New addition expected soon
The RHS hopes to announce a fifth garden site - to add to Rosemoor, Hyde Hall, Harlow Carr and Wisley - later this summer. It aims to include a northern horticulture school at the new garden, which is likely to be situated somewhere between Birmingham and Manchester and could be formerly owned by a local authority.
The society is also planning a garden show at Chatsworth in Derbyshire on 7-11 June 2017. It pulled out of Gardeners' World Live after this June's show.