New gardeners grow with National Trust

Ten talented gardeners have graduated from the National Trust’s careership gardening programme to help the conservation charity grow the skills needed to help care for its 200 gardens.

The programme, co-funded by the National Garden Scheme (NGS), has seen over 200 budding gardeners graduate since it began in 1991.

Five of this year’s graduates have already been offered gardening positions at National Trust properties across the country [1] to help strengthen the charity’s 450 strong gardening team.

New graduate Jamie Harris, 38, based at Chartwell in Kent said: “When I started the course in 2009 I knew very little about horticulture.
“We literally started at the bottom learning practical skills such as hedge trimming, mowing and propagation supplemented by study weeks to learn horticultural theory including plant science, garden history, plant identification and garden design.

“I have now secured a permanent role at Chartwell which is very special to me as it is where I was based for most of my training.”

This Autumn, the first students will enrol onto the two new Trust and NGS funded heritage gardening courses [2] designed to replace the careership programme in a move which heralds the Trust’s most significant development in horticultural training for 20 years.

Mike Calnan, Head of Gardens at the National Trust, said: “There’s a real skills shortage in heritage gardening so our training courses are essential in developing the skills we and the sector need but can’t find in the market place.  They will fill a training gap and this flow of new talent will ensure that our gardens can be conserved and looked after for future generations.”

Each year the NGS generously supports the Trust’s training programmes with an annual donation [3].  Students will learn their practical skills with placements at National Trust properties supplemented with theoretical gardening courses provided by Reaseheath College in Cheshire.

George Plumptre, Chief Executive of the NGS, said: “Training young people to this high level is the best possible way to ensure the continuation of our wonderful British gardening heritage.  We have been delighted to have played such an important role with the National Trust’s gardening careership scheme and it is very rewarding to know that so many of the past graduates now hold important posts throughout the country.”

The NGS was founded in 1927 and opens almost 4000 private gardens in England and Wales and gives £2.6 million from the moneys raised to nursing and caring charities each year.

The National Trust has annually received a generous donation for the last 20 years to support its training of gardeners for the heritage and private garden sector.

For more information on the new courses visit .


[1] Graduates have found permanent roles at; Coleton Fishacre in Devon, Scotney Castle and Chartwell in Kent, Powis Castle in Powys and Avebury in Wiltshire.  Other trainees have secured positions at other significant gardens both in the UK, and abroad.

[2] For those new to heritage gardening, the one year Foundation Certificate will develop the essential practical skills needed to look after and nurture heritage gardens, and is aligned with the Royal Horticultural Society’s (RHS) Level 2 in Horticulture.

The two year Diploma in Heritage Gardening is unique to the Trust and offers what is arguably the most comprehensive grounding in heritage gardening available for those with some prior experience and relevant qualifications.  It builds on the Foundation level training, providing trainees with an in-depth and working knowledge of heritage gardens.

Developed in conjunction with Reaseheath College in Cheshire, the courses are largely practical, with trainees based at major National Trust gardens where trainees work alongside some of the Trust’s most experienced Head Gardeners in some of the most famous gardens in the country.  To supplement this practical learning, trainees also spend 10 weeks a year at Reaseheath developing their horticultural knowledge.

Reaseheath College is a specialist land based college set in the heart of Cheshire near Nantwich. The College has a wide range of world class facilities including a large agricultural estate and 21 acres of high quality grounds. The horticulture department has a plant nursery and commercial glasshouse resources and a demonstration fruit and vegetable garden, a design studio using the latest high class IT technology and a commercial nine hole golf course. The college prides itself in delivering outstanding education to a wide range of customers and has extensive industrial and community links within the horticultural industry. We are extremely proud to be in partnership with the National Trust and delivering both of these qualifications, and to progress the opportunities available to all those who want to progress in heritage gardening.

[3] Last year the NGS donated £176,000 towards the Trust’s garden Careership training programme.


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