Garden sector lures City workers as recession hits financial firms

City slickers are ditching their careers to take up garden jobs as the economy flounders.

Capel Manor College is preparing to start new courses in January and April in response to demand from corporate executives who fear redundancy. Capel Manor chief executive Steve Dowbiggin said small garden businesses are doing well because many people are unable to move house at the moment due to plummeting house prices.

He added: "This is making gardening an attractive option as the City sheds jobs." Banks such as RBS and groups such as Morgan Stanley and Citigroup are the latest to announce redundancies.

Dowbiggin said: "Newbuild landscaping goes to big firms but when people don't move they go to smaller companies and individuals to revamp their gardens. We had an open day at the weekend and there were a number of people from the City looking at prospective careers, either because they are worried about being made redundant or have been made redundant.

"Some partners of people who are not working have decided to set up a business ... they want to get back into work as security in case of redundancy in the family."

Former Lloyds broker Neil Miller, who is now head gardener at Hever Castle in Kent, said: "I was made redundant in the crash in the early 1990s and decided on a total career change. I can very much see that happening for many people again. With a reasonable pay-off they can set up their own gardening business like I did before moving to Hever. People want to get out of it while they can and do something relatively stress-free. Horticulture salaries are not that appealing but there's more to life."

Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew diploma student Lottie Case, an ex-City banker, said: "Starting a gardening business is something some City people have in their minds that they'd like to do. A redundancy payment will give you a lump sum to make that leap."

The Chris Beardshaw Mentoring Scholarship has received 80 applications to work alongside the TV garden designer. He expects that figure to rise to 150 - all chasing just one scholarship place.

Lantra industry partnership manager David Winn said: "Horticulture and landscaping offer excellent opportunities to those seeking greater job satisfaction."

Shoots garden centres joint owner Jamie Malcolm said there was a lot of opportunity for garden businesses to take advantage of the skills sets of those hit by the City fall out.

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