Four former students from Scotland’s Rural College joined other experts at a Grow Careers event showcasing opportunities in the field of horticulture.
Kirsty Wilson, a presenter on the BBC’s Beechgrove Garden programme, Rosie Burgon, who runs her own cut flower business, Jennifer Wright, who is currently undertaking a Professional Gardeners Guild traineeship, and Michael Jack, first gardener at Broughton House and Garden, were among the speakers at the event hosted by the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh (RBGE).
Chaired by George Anderson, also of Beechgrove Garden, the event was attended by more than 200 students from SRUC’s Oatridge, Edinburgh, Elmwood and Glasgow campuses, and other institutions from all over Scotland.
Professor Colin Campbell, Chief Executive at the James Hutton Institute, gave a presentation about the role of vertical indoor farming in addressing the future global and local challenges of food production.
Garden writer and TV presenter Ellen Mary spoke about ways of securing a future in horticulture and international garden designer Luciano Giubbilei talked about the art of making a garden.
Kirsty, who gained a first class honours degree in Horticulture with Plantsmanship at SRUC’s Edinburgh campus, and is now the herbaceous supervisor at the RBGE, chaired the presentations by Rosie and Jennifer, together with Graham Gunn, manager at Kevock Garden Plants, and Michael Jack, fist gardener at Broughton House and Garden.
She said: “It was fantastic for me to be able to share where I’ve come from in my career in horticulture. There are so many options out there – it is such a vast profession.
“A horticulture careers day is a great event to inspire you into the world of horticulture. It is also a fantastic networking opportunity to meet other horticulturalists at different stages in their career and to make connections.”
Her classmate Rosie, who also studied for a degree in Horticulture, has set up her own business – Scottish Cut Flowers – in a bid to reduce the environmental impact of importing.
At her flower farm, which is based between a Victorian walled garden and a poly tunnel site in Tayside, she grows blooms and foliage for florists and the public without using herbicides, insecticides, fungicides, fertilisers or preservatives.
“I think it’s useful to talk to the next generation of horticulturalists and pass information on,” said Rosie.
“When I came to one of these events in 2012, there was no one doing what I am doing now, so it might be quite inspiring to hear about the cut flower industry for someone who hasn’t heard of it before.”
Jennifer, from Fife, studied for a National Certificate in Horticulture at SRUC Oatridge before being offered a modern apprenticeship at the RBGE. She is now in the third year of a Professional Gardeners Guild traineeship and is working as a trainee gardener at Savill and Valley Gardens in Windsor.
She said: “At the start I wasn’t sure about horticulture as a career, but later on I progressed to absolutely loving it. I haven’t followed a traditional path, but have gone down a less academic and more practical route.”
The event also offered students the opportunity to network with representatives from more than 20 organisations, including the Chartered Institute of Horticulture, Lantra Scotland, RBGE and SRUC.
George Gilchrist, Horticulture Lecturer at SRUC Oatridge and one of the organisers of the event, said: “The concept of the day is to inspire the next generation of horticulturists, garden designers and landscapers.
“One tweet after the event said ‘Cannot recommend this day enough. Such inspirational people and stories. So excited about my career!’ – that describes exactly what we wanted to achieve from the day.”