The new recruits include Chantal Rich, whose traineeship is funded by horticultural charity Perennial, and Laura Mellor, who is the first recipient of the Jim Buckland & Sarah Wain Scholarship.
The two two-year positions are being overseen by West Dean’s head gardener Tom Brown, who has managed trainee programmes at RHS Wisley and Parham. Rich, 29, had worked in horticulture for five years before changing paths to work at a stables. Mellor, 30, changed careers from working as a sports therapist to working at a pick-your-own farm five years ago.
Brown said: “We are very happy to welcome Laura and Chantal to the gardens team and look forward to seeing them learn over the next couple of years. Our thanks go to Perennial for funding one of the traineeships and for the other, it is great to welcome our first trainee through the scholarship that honours the legacy of our former head gardeners Jim Buckland & Sarah Wain. Not only do Laura and Chantal get to work in the wonderful gardens at West Dean, they also get to study one day a week at nearby Brinsbury College, which is part of Chichester College.
“We are pleased that the roles are for two years as it means that the trainees will get to see the gardens go through two cycles,” he said. “This hands-on opportunity is a wonderful springboard into working in a professional garden and the world of horticulture. They will be assigned to a member of the gardens team and they will get to do a wide range of work in the garden.”
Perennial director of services Julia Hayne said: “As part of our aim to build better futures for people in horticulture and their families, Perennial provides a range of support services including free and confidential advice, as well as training opportunities.
“We want to encourage more people to choose a career in horticulture and we hope that offering quality training experiences like this traineeship at West Dean will inspire others to seek similar opportunities,” she said.