Horticulturists say the industry can be lucrative and sexy if newcomers show ambition

"Horticulture is hi-tech now and that can be sexy," said grower John Polman at the Perennial New Starters' Conference at the Landscape Show at Battersea Park.

John Polman
John Polman

The Walberton/Binsted Nurseries grower studied in his native Holland so said he is used to, and enjoys, technical innovation in nurseries.

He worked in the UK at the automated Roundstone Nurseries for 11 years then went to co-operative Farplants.

He said the image of horticulture as a man with a wheelbarrow with a spade and wellies is "not what horticulture is about" and it should be promoted as high tech and "sexy".

Defra civil servant Nick Turner, who is now looking at free trade agreements' impact on ag and hort and formerly led Defra's horticulture team, said he aimed to try and "soften" EU regulations and that leaving the EU gave the opportunity to "develop the policies that work for the UK" and that there were many jobs in Defra for industry people to help do that. He said the Ornamentals Round Table could be a way to advertise them.

Kew horticulture director Richard Barley said he had "the best position in the world" and advised those entering the industry to "back yourself".

He said there were far more opportunities open than candidates and the Australian added that the UK had the best horticulture in the world, and it needed good people to look after it.

Former Society of Garden Designers chair Pip O'Brien said gardening was the "best job in the world" but "you'll never earn much money".

She said education was needed that gardeners were not "glorified cleaners and dustmen".

Landscaper Charlie Benton said "don't be scared and climb the tree", while RHS education manager Suzanne Moss said, including her own job, there were "lots of roles that earn quite good money but we focus on the bottom level". Event chairman Neville Stein said he had earned great money from horticulture, showing there was money to be made in the industry. He said one of his main consultancy roles at present was to help people recruit - "the biggest issue at the moment".

National Landbased College chief executive Leigh Morris said newcomers should grab opportunities in the global world of horticulture.

Designer Will Williams said confidence was the most important thing he had wished he'd had more of when starting out.

HTA's Phil Tremayne and Raoul Curtis Machin spoke of their transferable skills from the horticulture industry to the trade body and the importance of the Grow Careers website.

Landscaper David Dodd, who said he was buying a £1m add-on pots business, promoted the BALI Go Landscape scheme, which is set to roll out nationally in 2018.

Former Camden and Hillingdon parks head Martin Stanton promoted the career options offered by the Capel Manor sports turf academy.

Gary Edwards of the Gardeners Guild said gardening could be reduced to Uber, Air BnB or Gumtree unskilled levels in public perception and sights needed to be set high.

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