Career profile - Gardens Manager, Historic or Botanic Garden

Eden Project director of life sciences Dr Mike Maunder explains the role: "As a manager of a public garden or estate you are custodian of a collection and landscape that represent a unique heritage, but you are also responsible for ensuring the viability of those assets into the future. This arcing between heritage and future is very exciting as you are blending your hard-earned expertise with a range of science, culture, business and executive skills."

What is best about being a manager for an historic or botanic garden?

John Anderson, keeper of the gardens (curator) for The Crown Estate, and Greg Redwood, head of glasshouses, nursery and display at Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, both say a highlight of the job is working among a diverse collection of plants. Anderson also enjoys "the opportunity to meet people with a common interest in plants and gardens". He also refers to the opportunity to be creative and to enhance and preserve the aesthetic of the contemplated landscape. Redwood says another highlight is working with "engaged and motivated staff who have a wide range of specialisms".

What skills, attributes, knowledge and experience are most in demand for this role in the recruitment market at the moment — and why?

Horticultural knowledge/people skills

"You need outstanding plant knowledge and people-management skills," says Redwood. "Finding people with both is not always easy." Katherine Alker, garden and park manager at Croome Park in Worcestershire, adds: "Good horticultural knowledge is a must but equally important is how someone can interact with the public and interpret the landscape and garden. The role involves inspiring visitors to come again but this starts with great horticultural standards." Anderson highlights "the art of communicating across a wide pool of people in-house and externally". Maunder adds: "I always look for the individual who has a fire in their belly about plants and can communicate the value of horticulture to society."

Confidence and direction

In additional to formal qualifications, Maunder says: "I look for confidence and a cross-disciplinary approach that jumps over traditional boundaries.

The ability to work with different professional cultures and the ability to transfer the value of horticulture to all stakeholders are key." Anderson adds that candidates need "clear vision of what needs to be done, and how as a team this can be best achieved".

Professional/organisational skills

Team management, budget and project management, fundraising and staff training are key, notes Maunder.

What sort of qualifications and experience would you need to see from a candidate to be convinced that they possess these qualities?

Anderson says he would need to see "adequate qualifications to degree level, backed up by at least seven years’ experience". Redwood says he looks for people with a Kew diploma or a similar qualification "and for a good number of years’ experience working with relevant plants under glass. More senior roles require experience of managing resources, including staff and budgets." Alker notes that candidates need a high level of horticultural experience, supported by qualifications to RHS level 3 or above, or an equivalent level of vocational experience. Maunder notes that Eden Project Learning has been established to "nurture a cadre of horticulturists with a broad sense of purpose, a cross-disciplinary resilience and the confidence to tackle the challenges of the 21st century".

Are any of the skills that are in demand transferable from any other horticulture roles?

"We often recruit from a range of other backgrounds including interior landscaping and specialist nurseries and growers, although the more specialist or senior the role the more difficult it becomes to find candidates with the range of experience required," says Redwood. "To this end we have set up a specialist historic glasshouse apprenticeship and specialist Kew certificates in nursery display glasshouses and propagation.


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