Me & My Job: Alex Rennie, head gardener, Hadlow College

Alex Rennie, head gardener, Hadlow College. Image: Hadlow College
Alex Rennie, head gardener, Hadlow College. Image: Hadlow College

How did you get started? After doing Saturday jobs working on people's gardens, I started work with a local landscaper when I was 16. I trained for the National Certificate of Horticulture at Hadlow, then the national diploma. Then I took a job as a gardener at the American ambassador's house in London, where I spent four years before starting at Hadlow as head gardener 13 years ago.

What does your typical day involve? Hadlow college is split over three campuses, so I usually start by making sure all the garden staff have got jobs to do. I have a lot to do with student practicals as well. We have 10 acres (0.4ha) open to the public that we look after as well as the equine and animal management units, the sports pitches and the rest of the college gardens. There is always planning to do.

What is the best part of your job? The variety. There is always scope for trying out new things. I also enjoy talking to the students and lecturers. We have a lot of students from Africa, Europe and Asia, so it's interesting to talk to them about gardens and the different plants they have in their own countries.

And the worst? Ofsted inspections, paperwork and administration. We do bulb trials for supermarkets so I have to write up the reports, which is OK on wet days but I would rather be outside.

What piece of kit can you not do without? My secateurs.

How do you relax? Looking through plant books. I like the countryside and I enjoy walking the dogs. I spend my spare time with my family.

What does the future hold? The college is constantly being developed. It was built in the 1960s for a small number of students, so there is a lot going on.


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