Info on Career as Gardener
A professional Gardener is responsible for growing and cultivating all types of plants, flowers, trees, shrubs and lawns. Professional Gardeners are employed in places such as public parks, gardens, sports grounds, schools, private residences and private estates. The gardeners we represent are passionate about nature and the environment.
To be a gardener, you’ll need to enjoy a practical, outdoors lifestyle. Creativity and an eye for detail will help a gardener bring a garden to life, offering enjoyment and interest all year round.
There is no set entry route to become a gardener. Employers look for gardening skills, knowledge, a passion for the subject and experience. There are courses of study that lead towards qualifications and there are also opportunities to become a gardener through an Apprenticeship scheme or as a trainee gardener.
Day to Day Duties and Activities of a Gardener
Gardening can be a varied and rewarding job. The work could involve a number of different tasks including:
- raising plants from seeds or cuttings
- digging, planting and weeding flower beds and borders
- pruning shrubs
- checking the health of plants by identifying any pests or diseases and controlling them
- applying nutrients to plants and maintaining moisture levels
- using machinery such as lawn mowers, rotavators and hedge trimmers
- maintaining high levels of presentation in public parks, gardens, private estates and houses of historical importance
- cleaning and maintaining tools and equipment.
The work could also involve designing and planting schemes for gardens in which a gardener would use their plant, shrub and tree knowledge to make sure that the garden has something to offer all year round. This could include positioning plants so they work well together, matching plant sizes and planting so that flowers bloom or shrubs come into leaf at different times of the year to maximum effect.
The role may also involve carrying out basic building tasks, such as putting up sheds and building walls, fences and patios. A gardener will work on gardens in a wide variety of settings and opportunities to use gardening skills can be found in:
- private gardens and estates
- green areas around buildings
- street plant displays
- public parks and community gardens
- botanical gardens like the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew
- historical gardens
- gardens at heritage sites.
If the work is in a garden that is open to the public , the gardener might also be required to answer questions from visitors or supervise and lead garden walks.
Working hours and conditions
Gardeners in private households will usually work 37- 40 hours a week and the hours could vary depending on the time of year. Invariably more work is needed during the growing season and less during the winter. A great deal of flexibility is needed as work is often disrupted by the weather!
A self-employed gardener will probably work for a number of clients and the hours of work will be arranged with each individual.
Gardening is a very physical job and involves a lot of lifting, digging and carrying heavy loads. We always advise candidates to wear safety equipment such as gloves, eye protectors and a hard hat as and when required.
A Head Gardener, for example, at a heritage attraction or landscaped park, could earn £25,000pa or more. As a gardener working for a local authority the salary will be between £12,000 and £18,000 a year. A gardener working for a private household or estate will, in general earn 10 -20% higher. Garden Managers or Senior Gardeners who specialise in grounds maintenance could earn £30,000 a year or more. (Figures are intended as a guideline only.)
How to become a Gardener
There is no fixed entry route to becoming a gardener. To work as a gardener you would need to be able to demonstrate to employers that you have the gardening skills, knowledge and enthusiasm they are looking for. Experience in gardening or a horticultural role is highly valued by employers.
Volunteering can also be a great way to get experience. You can look for opportunities on the Do-it website. You could also check with organisations such as the National Trust, The Conservation Volunteers or Wildlife Trusts to find out if they need volunteers in your area.
- The Conservation Volunteers
- National Trust
- Wildlife Trusts
Studying towards a qualification in gardening or horticulture could also help you to gain some of the knowledge and practical skills needed for this career. Courses would cover things like identification of plants growing plants from seed and how to use gardening machinery safely.
The Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) also offers a range of qualifications. RHS courses are suitable if you are just starting to learn more about gardening and horticulture, or if you wish to gain qualifications that will help you begin and develop a career in horticulture. Courses include:
- Level 1 Award in Practical Horticulture
- Level 2 Certificate in Practical Horticulture
- Level 2 Diploma in the Principles and Practices of Horticulture.
There are no formal entry requirements for RHS qualifications. Courses are designed to be studied on a part-time or distance learning basis. Visit the RHS website for more information about qualifications and to search for accredited training centres.
The RHS offers funding in the form of bursaries for those involved in or studying gardening or horticulture. Take a look at the RHS website for eligibility criteria and information on other grants that are available.
You may be able to start through a Horticultural Apprenticeship scheme. The range of Apprenticeships available in your area will depend on the local jobs market and types of skills employers need from their workers.
Training and development
You will usually receive training on the job from your employer and you may have the opportunity to work towards qualifications, such as:
Level 2/3 Certificate/Diploma in Work-based Horticulture
Level 3 Certificate/Diploma in Horticulture.
If your job involves tasks which are potentially hazardous, like operating chainsaws or using pesticides, you will need a Certificate of Competence for each task. These are issued after appropriate training and are awarded through City & Guilds Land Based Services (formerly NPTC) and Lantra Awards.
You can develop your skills and knowledge by completing further RHS qualifications or short courses and workshops in gardening or horticulture. These could include:
Level 3 Certificate in Practical Horticulture
Level 3 Certificate in the Principles of Garden Planning, Construction and Planting.
The RHS offers a higher education level Master of Horticulture (RHS) ,a qualification aimed at those working professionally. (Visit the RHS website to find out more and you can also study towards higher education qualifications like HNCs, HNDs, foundation degrees and degrees in subjects like horticulture and garden management.
The Royal Botanic Gardens in Kew and Edinburgh offer a wide range of courses, some of which can be studied by distance learning.
If you have at least six months’ experience of working under a professional gardener, you could be eligible to apply for the RHS or The Professional Gardeners’ Guild Traineeships. You would get the chance to gain valuable training and experience. The websites will give further information as to what is available.
Skills, interests and qualities
To be a good gardener, you should have:
- a keen interest in plants and nature
- an enjoyment of working outdoors
- good practical skills
- the ability to use your own initiative
- a good level of strength and fitness
- creativity and an eye for detail
- good business sense if self-employed.
Royal Horticultural Society (RHS)
Royal Botanic Gardens Kew
Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh
Perennial – Gardeners’ Royal Benevolent Society