18 Dec 2016

The Tale of a Horticultural Apprentice

Ardd Fotaneg · Botanic Garden

So I’ve finally been released onto the Garden’s website, and here’s hoping I can get a few blog posts out before anyone notices! I’m the horticultural apprentice here at the National Botanic Garden of Wales- my name is Carly Green and I’m a plantaholic.

I arrived at the garden the September before last, fresh from a zoology degree at Swansea University and more used to the world of  library coffees and bleary-eyed lectures than gardening. Was I in for a wake up call!

There are no half-measures in a horticultural education. You work in all weathers, heedless of the trickle of water running down your neck or the numbness spreading through your toes, only finally giving in if the soil is frozen solid or too wet to dig. I wouldn’t have it any other way though! I’m over half way through the two-year apprenticeship, and it’s been an incredible experience.

What’s Involved?

As an apprentice here I rotate around each section of the garden every three months. This means that I get to work with all of the teams in the Garden; from the Great Glasshouse to the kitchen garden, the Nursery Glasshouses where we raise all of our plants, the tropical butterfly house, the Broadwalk and the historic Double-Walled Garden. I get to learn and try out almost every horticultural technique we use here. I have smoked and sown seeds from Western Australia, pruned our Welsh apple trees and have even been a butterfly ranger in Plas Pilipala.

As part of the apprenticeship I also have one day a week when I study for the RHS level 2 horticultural diploma. Every Tuesday I put my student hat back on, and the course is taught right here so I don’t even have to find the campus!

Placements and Positivity

Another great part of my training is that I get to work at other gardens on placement. So far I have spent a week at a beautiful private garden, two weeks in the tropical nursery at Kew Gardens and more recently I was at Highgrove Gardens in Gloucestershire. These placements have been some of the most memorable moments in my apprenticeship. I’ve been able to meet and chat with some of the country’s leading horticulturalists and see how gardening is done across the country.

I’ve still got around 9 months left to go here, and I can’t believe how much I’ve accomplished so far. As an apprentice I am treated like a member of staff, and this has given me a great deal of confidence as a gardener. Being a student is one thing, but being respected as a professional  is so valuable to be able to make your own decisions and try new techniques.

Where You’ll Find Me

I’m currently working with the outdoor team that takes care of the Broadwalk, the Slate Beds and the Japanese Garden. We’re cutting back borders, dividing perennials and preparing for winter at the moment. I’ll be posting updates on my progress and behind the scenes at the garden, so be sure to keep an eye on the blog. I’m outdoors until the end of February, so if you see a chilly apprentice in a pair of dungarees then feel free to say shwmae!