Many people find themselves working at a job for reasons that they can’t really explain. Often, an opportunity presents itself and before they realize it, they are headed in a direction they had never planned on. I consider myself very lucky to have known from an early age what I wanted to do. Plants and flowers have long been my passion, and I was fairly certain that I would never be happy working behind a desk.
I spent all of my school years living in the country. We lived across the road from a farm which grows blueberries and Christmas trees. As long as I can remember, I picked blueberries in the summer, and helped to cut and sell Christmas trees every December. I was a diligent student, and I spent a lot of time doing homework, but my happiest hours were when my school work was done and I could head out to the farm and into the fresh air. The fragrance of the berry blossoms in the spring was heady, and the tang of freshly- cut Christmas trees even more so.
Winter and Christmas have always been my favourite time of the year, and it was during then that I made up my mind that I wanted to do this for a living. But I had a lot of questions, and no idea how to begin my research.
My first step, after graduating from high school, was to investigate the Royal Horticultural Society. They have a wealth of information on their website. From this point I had to think carefully about what aspect of working with plants I enjoyed the most. There are several avenues to take. If the idea of design, colour and texture is what inspires you, landscaping and garden design would be the obvious choice. If you just like to get your hands into the dirt, there are a multitude of options. Or, if you are interested in more technical subjects, such as pollination or disease control, you could explore getting into research. Whatever decision you make, The Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) has a clearly defined path for you to follow.
RHS Level 1 Introductory Award in Practical Horticulture
This award consists of four units, from soil preparation to propagation of plants from seed. The focus is on basic horticultural skills and provides an excellent foundation for moving on to more practical skills.
RHS Level 2 Award in Practical Horticulture
This level is divided into two distinct components: The practical components deals with a hands-on approach, putting knowledge to work with actual field work. The second component is largely theory-based, delving more deeply into the principles of plant growth.
RHS Level 3 Award in Practical Horticulture
This level has three components: the practical and theory-based, and a third combining both of these. At this point, learners can begin to concentrate more specifically on their area of interest. Having achieved this level opens up a world of employment opportunities.
Master of Horticulture
This is the RHS’s most prestigious professional horticultural qualification. It allows holders of this award to use the designation MHort (RHS) after their name. In order to be accepted into the program, applicants must have had at least four years of full-time employment at a supervisory level. The program consists of guided self- study over a period of three years. Some of the topics of study include Urban Landscapes, Strategic Management, and World Horticulture. This is definitely for the dedicated career person.
Whatever level of qualification you hope to achieve, the most important prerequisite is simply the love of plants and flowers, and the joy of working with your hands, and getting out into the environment. With this basis, you are off to a good start.
There has been a tendency in the recent past for people starting out in their employment search to focus on a very narrow and specific field of opportunities. There is also a belief that “working with your hands” is a job requiring very little skill level; a last resort, if you will. This is really not the case; in fact, there is a definite need for skilled, trained workers. Many graduating students are simply not made aware of the possibilities available outside the usual career paths.
One tried-and-true method for developing career options is to volunteer. Talk to people within an organization and find out what appeals to you. Community gardens, parks, and environmental groups are all excellent ways to get involved in the horticultural world.
City beautification projects are common nowadays as well.
And, so, I decided to pursue my RHS level 1 qualification. The course runs on a part-time basis, which left me plenty of leisure time to spend in the garden. Once I had achieved my level 1 award, I was hired by a plant nursery and garden centre very near to where I live. I have been working there for two years now, and recently began the process of purchasing the farm across the road from where I still. The fellow who owns the farm is getting on, and he wants to retire. This would certainly be the culmination of a childhood dream for me. My training has allowed me to work in a profession that I love, and has given me the ability to buy the property where I “cultivated” my love of plants.
It certainly takes some thought and plenty of effort to figure out what type of work makes you happy. But, considering how much time we spend on the job, it is surely worth it. Life is full of possibilities, and, with some soul-searching, you can find them. Find out what you love to do, and go after it. Believe in it, and make it happen.
Author C McDonald. I am working on behalf of one of the counties leading providers of corporate horticultural solutions for commercial environments. With so much experience and expertise, passion and skill, you can rely on us to bring your workplace or venue to life.