RHS Ambassadors go on tour to enthuse kids with horticultural passion

Award-winning garden designer and Gardeners' World presenter, Adam Frost, and YoungHort co-founder, Jamie Butterworth are going on tour to encourage children to take up horticulture.

Butterworth has had a meteoric rise in his career to date

As RHS Ambassadors, they are helping to judge the RHS’s national ‘Green Plan It’ schools’ competition, at eight events in Birmingham, Bristol, Glasgow, Harrogate, London, Newcastle, Norwich and Salford, where they will share their enthusiasm for horticulture with hundreds of secondary school pupils.

The competition challenges teams of 12 to 14-year-olds to design a new school or community garden. They have been working on their designs for 10 weeks, working alongside mentors from their local areas who provide the teams of youngsters with feedback, expert advice and tips on how to get a dream job in horticulture.

Butterworth, who at age 22 is show plant manager at RHS Chelsea Flower Show favourite Hortus Loci, in charge of growing for four gardens at next year’s show, starts of the tour on Tuesday in Manchester.

He said: "I cannot wait. The one thing I love more than anything is going into schools and showing them that horticulture is so much more than they think it is.

"It’s the thing I felt most passionate about when I was at YoungHort. You ask them if they want to go into horticulture and they say ‘I’m going to get a proper job’. Then you show them the different possibilities."

Butterworth always shows youngsters a 40-second clip from the 2015 Ridley Scott film The Martian, where an astronaut survives being stranded on Mars for hundreds of days because he is a botanist who can not only grow his own food but work out how to create growing conditions on a hostile planet by using his own excrement and making a water distillery from salvaged technology.

"The idea is to captivate them and inspire them a little bit and show them that horticulture is much more than they thought it would be. If it’s just a handful in that group who are interested then it’s well worth doing.

Green Plan It was piloted at RHS Wisley last year and was a big success, Butterworth said.

"We did it with secondary schools around Wisley. I remember two kids that won are two kids that weren’t that keen on school and kept getting put into detention. Then they were given this project and they really got into it, they worked really hard and stayed late at school. They gave the most heartfelt presentation and won. I don’t think they’d ever won anything before and their eyes lit up. It was wonderful."

Butterworth co-founded the YoungHort organisation with Jack Shilley in 2013 with the aim of creating a network of young horticulturists and promoting the profession to young people, which included giving talks in schools.  He was on a two-year RHS Wisley diploma in practical horticulture at the time.

While there he was offered the job of Hortus Loci assistant show plant manager, being promoted to show plant manager two weeks ago. He is growing plants for Charlotte Harris’ RBC garden, Andrew and Gavin McWilliams’ garden for Wellington College and Catherine Mcdonald’s Seedlip Garden, the quality of which could make or break any of the four designs – all at an age many people are struggling to find a job of any kind post-university.

"That’s one of the biggest things about horticulture, there’s a job for you to walk straight into," Butterworth said. "There are so many jobs out there and there’s a skills shortage. It is getting better but these jobs still exist. If you’re passionate about it, the sky’s the limit. I don’t think any of my contemporaries from Wisley had any problem finding work."

Frost, who started as an apprentice in a council parks department and went on to win multiple RHS Chelsea gold medals and Best in Show, and now also presents for BBC Gardeners’ World, said: "I can’t wait to meet with the next generation of budding garden designers, landscape architects or plant scientists and discuss the inventive designs they’ve been working on.  

"I want to share my love of gardening with them and open up their minds to the fantastic career opportunities that exist in the horticultural world."



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