Amenity horticulturists design and create a range of public outdoor spaces including parks and gardens
Your role as an amenity horticulturist is to design, construct, manage and maintain living, recreational and leisure areas. These include:
- botanic and public gardens
- cemeteries and crematoria
- country parks
- historic gardens and landscapes
- sports facilities
- urban tree planting
- other public spaces.
You'll usually be involved in all stages of design, growing and maintenance. The work is complex, requiring management and technological competence alongside a scientific understanding and the traditional skills of cultivation.
As an amenity horticulturist, you'll need to:
- supervise and assist in the planning, preparation and maintenance of gardens, grounds and other leisure areas - this will involve the design of planting schemes, cultivation and the management of weekly, monthly and annual maintenance programmes
- analyse horticultural and operational costs for a project
- manage pest, disease and weed control programmes in accordance with health and hygiene standards, and ensure a prompt response and the maintenance of service contracts
- acquire knowledge of regulations (including pesticides, chainsaws and use of machinery), the use of personal protective equipment and Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (CoSHH)
- ensure that UK and international quality, hygiene, health and safety and employment standards and regulations are met
- meet the increasing requirements of organic cultivation
- assist in the development of the wildlife in gardens and grounds
- conduct environmental assessments
- consider proposed changes to existing public amenities and leisure locations and assess their potential benefits
- visit historical sites, research old plans and documents and plan restoration programmes
- regularly inspect machinery and equipment and arrange for it to be serviced
- take inventories of stock items such as plants, trees and machinery
- identify technical and operational problems and investigate the causes
- formulate solutions and plan and organise trials to assess their effectiveness
- prepare new or modified operational and business plans
- manage contractors and negotiate with suppliers and buyers
- organise presentations, technical visits and demonstrations
- develop the knowledge and experience to guide and support a team
- communicate effectively with the visiting public, local officials and elected representatives, working colleagues and professional groups, both orally and in writing, through briefings, reports and presentations
- carry out administrative tasks including records, budgets and accounts
- keep up to date with industry developments in your specialist area and the sector as a whole
- advise and plan tree planting, succession planting and maintenance programmes, and arrange for surveys and tree surgery to be carried out - depending on your role, this may be one of your duties
- provide the required standard of sports surface presentation (considering budgets, priorities, level of use and standard of play) and advise on pitch conditions - this is likely to be a requirement if you're working with sports facilities.
- A graduate horticulturist's salary is between £17,000 and £25,000. Apprenticeship salaries vary considerably depending on the employer but are generally between £11,000 and £19,500.
- With five to ten years' experience, you can earn in the region of £20,000 to £30,000.
- As a head gardener, you may earn up to £40,000.
Accommodation is sometimes provided or subsidised.
Income figures are intended as a guide only.
You'll typically work a 40-hour week, though working hours and workloads may vary according to the season. Hours can be long and weekend working may be necessary. Part-time work and career breaks are also possible.
What to expect
- Elements of the work are conducted outdoors - all year round - and you may be cold, dirty and wet, or hot and sweaty. However, the work has become increasingly office based, and so indoor jobs can often be undertaken in bad weather.
- You'll need to apply a general hands-on approach at first, but can specialise later if you wish.
- Self-employment is possible, with some horticulturists working as horticultural contractors.
- Working in amenity horticulture is different from working in your own garden; you should accept that you're providing facilities for the general public, some of whom may lack appreciation and understanding of your work.
- Travel within a working day may be necessary, but overnight absence from home is rarely required.
You could improve your chances of developing a professional career in amenity horticulture by taking a degree in one of the following subjects:
- crop and plant science
- environmental science
- food science/technology
- soil science.
Foundation degrees and HNDs are available in a range of subjects including:
- amenity horticulture
- garden design
- sports turf management.
Postgraduate study is not essential.
You can also gain entry to a career as an amenity horticulturist through a non-degree route, by completing an apprenticeship, such as those offered by Grow and the Eden Project. You can also search on the government website Apprenticeships.gov.uk.
Rather than completing a full degree, you can work towards a range of nationally recognised certificates and diplomas. Choosing from a variety of subjects, including amenity horticulture, horticultural sciences, landscape and garden design, and organic production.
Beginners' courses are available for those thinking of a career in horticulture. For details of courses, see the Lantra course finder.
Practical skills courses, such as the ones delivered by City & Guilds, may be particularly useful. For example:
- City & Guilds NPTC Level 2 Award in Felling and Processing Trees up to 380mm
- City & Guilds NPTC Level 2 Award in Ground Based Chainsaw Operator.
You'll need to have:
- good communication and interpersonal skills
- efficient planning skills
- the ability to organise and manage your own workload
- problem-solving skills
- physical fitness
- the ability to work as part of a team and under your own initiative
- management and business skills
- financial awareness
- a good eye for detail
- a hands-on, practical and realistic approach to work
- numeracy and IT skills
- flexibility and a willingness to work in a busy and varied environment
- knowledge of health and safety regulations and procedures
- a full driving licence (usually a requirement).
Practical horticulture experience is vital. Try to obtain a work experience placement or a vacation job within the industry. Voluntary gardening work is also useful, for example, with organisations such as the:
You can also find volunteering work with local gardening projects.
There are opportunities to undertake horticulture placements in all areas of the field abroad.
Short-term contracts are a good way of gaining relevant experience. Be prepared to start in posts where you'll be required to get your hands dirty before taking responsibility for a workforce.
Find out more about the different kinds of work experience and internships that are available.
Typical employers of amenity horticulturists include:
- Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC)
- English Heritage
- Historic Scotland
- National Trust
- National Trust for Scotland
- commercial leisure enterprises, such as golf clubs, country clubs, safari and theme parks, and sports venues
- commercial companies supplying products, equipment and services to the industry
- environmental and conservation bodies, such as the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) and The Wildlife Trusts
- local authorities and national park authorities - see Find your local council and National Parks
- botanic gardens, including those connected to universities and specialist gardens such as Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew and the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS).
Some amenity horticulturists work as self-employed contractors.
Look for job vacancies at:
- Horticulture Jobs
- Horticulture Week
- National Trust Jobs
- National Trust for Scotland Vacancies
- Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) and the botanical gardens.
Vacancies are advertised by specialist recruitment agencies, such as:
It's common for employers to only have a small number of vacancies each year and do not recruit on a regular basis. Such posts are advertised as they arise. A network of personal contacts in the industry can be valuable for finding out about available jobs.
Colleges and university schools of agriculture and horticulture usually have established contacts within the industry.
Training varies from minimal on-the-job training to well-structured training schemes and in-house training programmes. Some employers provide opportunities to take management qualifications and health and safety training.
The big names in amenity horticulture, including the Royal Horticultural Society and National Trust, offer a variety of training opportunities, covering a range of practical experience and horticultural theory. Courses are offered at beginner level through to the experienced professional.
- RHS Level 2 Certificate in Practical Horticulture
- RHS Level 3 and 4 Diploma in Horticultural Practice - this is a two-year course taught at RHS Garden Wisely
- RHS Master of Horticulture is the RHS degree-level qualification. Holders of the award may use the designation MHort (RHS) after their name
- the National Trust runs paid apprenticeships at Level 2, 3 and 4, lasting for at least one year
- in addition to its diploma, the RHS offers Apprenticeships and paid 12-month Professional Work Placements, among a range of other schemes such as scientific PhDs and Plant Health Studentships
- the National Trust offers training schemes, apprenticeships, internships and volunteering opportunities
- the two-year Kew Apprenticeship in Botanical Horticulture and three-year Kew Diploma in Horticulture are both offered by the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. Both are paid positions with a salary of £17,852 and £17,853 respectively, plus a book allowance of £725. Kew also runs a range of internships, providing practical experience for undergraduates and recent graduates
- the Professional Gardeners Guild Traineeship is for those who have some voluntary or paid experience. The scheme lasts for three years and trainees will receive at least a minimum wage and be provided with rented accommodation. Bursary funding is available to cover the costs of relocation.
Some courses have a minimum entry requirement, such as a Level 2 certificate in horticulture.
Your first job will usually involve hands-on cultivation and maintenance work, but with experience you'll begin to supervise teams of people in the various operations necessary for the horticultural maintenance and refurbishment of recreational and leisure areas.
To improve your chances of promotion, you could work towards horticultural qualifications such as those provided by the RHS. You may also aid your career progression by joining a professional body, such as the Chartered Institute of Horticulture and the Professional Gardeners' Guild.
If you're a graduate it's likely you will be able to move on to higher-paid management positions relatively quickly, becoming involved with the management of horticultural facilities.
Should you decide you want to change direction, there may be opportunities to transfer to landscape architecture, design and planning, or to move into other areas such as education and the media. In the latter, opportunities arise from time to time for researchers or production assistants for gardening and garden design television and radio programmes.