Careers inspiration

Meet some horticultural trailblazers

Careers in Horticulture

How many young people would like a career that is creative? Entrepreneurial? Innovative? Artistic? Scientific? Challenging? Adventurous? World-leading? A career that 'makes a difference' to individuals, to communities, to nations?  If you thought horticulture was growing cabbages with granddad, it's time to think again.  Here are ten exciting career profiles to get you interested:

Matthew Pottage, Garden Manager, RHS Garden Wisley.
 Matt, at 26, became the youngest ever Garden Manager at the RHS. He's responsible for over 100 acres of outdoor, ornamental plant collections, 25 full time staff and a budget of £100 000. He's also managed to fit in a masters, completing the RHS Master of Horticulture, and has travelled to Chile to study the Monkey Puzzle tree in its native habitat. All that and he's only 27! 
Mark Fane, Co-Director of Crocus, online plant nursery.
In a decade, Crocus has become one of the the UK's largest plant nurseries, with a turnover of £10 million, sourcing plants from all over the world and providing reliable information about what to grow where. Mark also builds gardens and has 20 gold medals and 8 'best in show' awards from the RHS Chelsea Flower Show and is the man that top garden designers ask to source and supply the plants for their gardens. Every May he is usually building two show gardens at Chelsea and supplying plants for a third. "Nothing is ever a problem for him" says Tom Stuart Smith, "He thinks challenges make life more interesting."
Kiat Tan, Chief Executive Officer of the Gardens by the Bay, Singapore.
Kiat, with a background in botanical science and a leading authority on orchids, persuaded successive governments of the virtue of his ideas and plans for a horticultural and botanical theme park and assembled a team of horticulturists, architects, planners and engineers to make those ideas a reality. The result is a stunning, innovative, scientific and recreational wonder that has gained international recognition, awards for architectural and 'green credentials' and has attracted over 10 million visitors since opening in June 2012. It is a man-made ecosystem that mirrors nature's environmental cycles, using sustainable energy and water solutions.
Richard Reynolds, Guerilla Gardener.
"Let's fight the filth with forks and flowers" - guerilla gardening fights the war on the neglect and scarcity of public space, seizing the opportunity to turn them into places to grow things ('be they beautiful, edible or both'). Richard is the original guerilla gardener whose work has inspired others across the globe to transform their local areas.
Tom Hart Dyke, Plant Hunter.
Tom's expeditions have taken him to places all around the world, from the volcanic archipelago of both The Canary Islands & Cape Verde Islands, to down under in Tasmania, seed collecting for the Royal Horticultural Society & Kent Garden’s Trust. From the snow capped Atlas Mountains in Morocco and an unforgettable orchid hunting foray funded by The Finnis Scott Foundation to the remote Mentawai Islands in Indonesia. "You simply can’t beat observing plants in their native habitat to improve your plant husbandry back home. During these plant hunting forays I’ve succeeded in bringing back a number of plants in seed form that have helped establish the developing, botanically unique World Garden whilst at the same time developing a ‘conservation through cultivation’ angle by preserving threatened plants in cultivation should wild populations disappear".
Campbell Thorp, Horticulture Manager, Biotecture.
Biotecture is a designer and supplier of hydroponic, modular living wall systems ('green walls') that have won awards for sustainable innovation. Visually stunning, textured plant walls are able to trap pollution and help to lower the environmental impact of buildings (they insulate buildings, reducing heating costs in winter and keeping them cool in summer). Check out the Edgeware Road Tube Station in London.
Anna Platoni, Entomologist, RHS Garden Wisley.
"The communication of science is close to my heart. It is so much fun and it upsets me that people think they have to travel to see wildlife when it is right there in the garden. Many mammalogists rarely glimpse the animal they are tracking, but with insects you get up close and really see your study animal. You can't get better than that". Anna is one of a team of advisors at the RHS who answers members enquiries and is on hand at RHS shows. Her research work includes analysis of the Plants for Bugs data to be able to advise on the most suitable plants to attract wildlife into your garden and she loves talking about butterflies!  Anna did zoology for her degree and entomology for her masters. Watch Anna's story


Gioia Massa , Project Scientist, NASA Kennedy Space Centre
Specialising in Life Sciences, Plant Science, Advanced Life Support, Controlled Environment Agriculture, Horticulture and Crop Production.
NASA has been sending plants into space for decades to test whether reduced gravity affects germination, root growth and overall yield, and that information could be crucial to growing food on the Red Planet. But so far, NASA astronauts have not been able to eat what they sow, as mission managers have been worried about the safety of space-bred crops.

The “Veggie” experiment is the first NASA project that hopes to not only show that space plants are safe to eat, but to also start producing fresh food for astronaut consumption. The plant growth chamber was installed on the International Space Station and activated in May. Inside, astronauts placed special “pillows” containing a soil-like growth medium and seeds of red romaine lettuce. The plants were carefully watered and nurtured by the glow of LED lights. After 28 days, the lettuce was harvested, frozen and stored for return to Earth, so scientists can compare the space lettuce with counterparts grown in a Veggie chamber on Earth.
Nigel Dunnett and James Hitchmough, The Sheffield School of Planting Design, University of Sheffield
Nigel and James were the principal planting design and horticultural consultants for the London Olympic Park, and for its transition to the Queen Elizabeth Park. They have established a body of research and practice relating to the naturalistic use of herbaceous perennial plants in a wide range of contexts. Their approach is typified by workable, sustainable solutions for public space, with high public appeal, that are rich in biodiversity.

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