A horticultural destiny and the power of positivity, with Beechgrove Gardens' head gardener and TV presenter, Scott Smith

Rachael Forsyth and Scott Smith

Head gardener Scott Smith is one of a growing number of horticulturists-turned TV stars as he co-presents Beechgrove Garden for the BBC.

Smith explains how the show works and the challenges of keeping the garden shipshape around the filming schedule for the show, which includes the 'Back to Basics' feature helping gardeners demystify some of the projects shown on TV shows and to produce features in their own garden.

"You don't actually see [on garden makeover shows] how they do it...the thing I love most is to go into the 'who, what, why, when, where' -  and really explain a topic, even if it's something simple", he says. He hopes the approach will help encourage more people to take up gardening and even enter the industry.

Smith discusses his route into horticulture - which was not direct - and he says there should be more promotion of careers in horticulture at school to showcase options to school leavers. He studied cyber security before finding his first gardening role at the job centre. He got the job at National Trust Scotland Kellie Castle "because nobody else showed up to interview!

"And my boss at the time, who's still a horticultural hero to this day, Mark Armour, he's still the head gardener there - he really made me see that horticulture is a career path... he was so passionate and enthusiastic and funny and I actually really looked forward to going to work...and that was me well and truly bitten by the horticultural bug and stuck in ever since."

If horticulture is to attract and keep people, it must be more highly valued by society and crucially, better paid, he says: "Sadly I've known a couple of people who have been horticultural students and have done their full apprenticeship, and because they need the money, they've actually left horticulture and going into selling cars and things like this."

By way of example he explains the range of tasks, skills and knowledge needed to do his job and but he adds "I always feel for those people in production horticulture because there must be so much pressure on them...I'm vastly reliant on production horticulture specialists because you know if I don't have them I don't have plants. It's a very, very skilled, area for sure."

He talks about climate change and using peat free growing media which he has found to be "very unpredictable". 

"The B&Q Verve range is very different to MiracleGro, which is very different to Sylvagrow, which is different to the next one. And none of them seem to have a standardised recipe. And you can find that even between batches of the very same brand, it can be different as well."

He feels the pressure on growers to go peat-free is too high, that more research is needed: "You can't expect, as a government, to click your fingers  and say 'right everybody's peat free in two years' - it's such an ill-educated way of looking at it, I think."

Though one of his favourite phrases - "What's for you won't go past you" - implies a touch of fatalism, his best advice for those looking to make a success of horticulture is more positive:  "It's by saying yes to things that you'll suddenly find it opens another vista, another door opens and you'll say yes to that. And then another avenue opens; you'll say yes to that. Before you know it, you're miles away from where you were at the beginning."

His other mantra is to keep learning and pushing yourself: "Horticulture is so vast, you're never gonna know everything".

Presenter: HortWeek senior reporter Rachael Forsyth
Producer: HortWeek digital content manager Christina Taylor

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