Courses for gardeners

If you're looking for courses in horticulture, or would like to re-train for a garden-related career, here's a selection of the UK's leading schools offering land-based courses.


Following our two-part series in the magazine on how to succeed in a garden-related career, here is a listing of horticultural courses to consider. Take a look at this selection of the UK's leading schools.

Beginners and part time

Askham Bryan College, York
Tel 01904 772277
This established college offers the full range of horticultural qualifications.
with full-time and part-time options.

Capel Manor, London
Tel 08456 122 122
London’s only specialist further education college for horticulture, with study centres in Enfield, Gunnersbury and Regent’s Park.

Eden Project, Cornwall
Tel 01726 818762
Eight one-day practical gardening courses form part of the RBGE Certificate in Practical Horticulture (CPH). They can be taken as individual modules or as a complete course.

Hadlow College, Kent
Tel 01732 850551
Extensive range of training from degree level to RHS Masters and HND-level in all areas of horticulture.

Merrist Wood College, Surrey
Tel 01483 884127
Part of Guildford College, Merrist Wood specialises in horticulture and land-based studies. Courses include NVQ, BTec and RHS Level 2 and 3.

Open University
Tel 0845 300 6090
Offering a new short course, Plants and People, in conjunction with the RHS, Kew and the Eden Project. From forensic botany to nutrition and biodiversity, the course covers all the benefits that plants bring to civilisation.

Pershore College, Worcestershire
Tel 01386 552443
Full range of nationally accredited courses, from arboriculture to garden design and landscaping. The college has a long-established reputation.

Reaseheath College, Cheshire
Tel 01270 625131
Horticultural courses for all levels from City & Guilds National Diploma to RHS and NVQ and degree-level study in landscape management and design. There are also apprenticeship options.

Women’s Farm and Garden Association (WFGA)
Tel 01285 658339
The Women Returners To Amenity Gardening Scheme (WRAGS) partners with more than 120 gardens around the UK to fund trainees for 15 hours a week in a garden for a year. The scheme is aimed at women returning to work or looking for a career change.

Writtle College, Essex
Tel 01245 424200
Courses take students to degree and post-graduate level on a full and part-time basis. There is also a range of short courses in practical techniques Several bursary schemes are available.

Full time and advanced trainee schemes

Birmingham Botanical Gardens
Tel 0121 4541860
This annual paid studentship offers trainees a year’s experience of practical horticulture, plus plant identification tours and lectures.

Cambridge University Botanic Garden
Tel 01223 336265
Students on the Cambridge Certificate in Practical Horticulture and Plantsmanship work with garden staff for a year, as well as attending lectures and demonstrations. There’s a strong emphasis on plantsmanship.

Great Dixter, East Sussex
The late Christopher Lloyd’s garden hosts informal student placements that last between a month and a year. Students are trained by head gardener Fergus Garrett and other garden staff. In 2010, the Christopher Lloyd Scholarship was launched. In 2011 new learning facilities will open. Informal courses continue through the year.

Historic & Botanic Garden Bursary Scheme
Tel 01737 244 664
Led by English Heritage, the HBGBS works with the National Trust, Historic Royal Palaces, Chelsea Physic Garden, private gardens, family trusts and parks departments. Trainees spend a year in a partner garden, with further training at local colleges. Applicants need to have at least two years’ previous practical experience of gardening.

National Trust
Tel 0870 240 0274
From 2011 the NT is offering a foundation year and a two-year heritage gardening diploma. Students on the full-time programme are paid the minimum wage and work in NT gardens. With 12 students selected out of around 5,000 applications, competition is tough.

Professional Gardeners Guild
Tel 01296 658251
The PGG supports a three-year traineeship, with 13 placements at 11 gardens around the UK. Up to five placements are available each year. Posts are advertised in April and training starts in September. Training involves spending a year in each of three major gardens, living on site and working as part of the gardening team.

Royal Botanic Gardens Edinburgh
Tel 0131 248 2937
Offers a range of courses, including its own practical certificate, the RHS certificates, HND and degree-level qualifications. The emphasis is on garden skills, plantsmanship, ecology and garden history. It is a full-time course with a part-time option.

Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew
The Kew Diploma is a degree-level qualification, full-time over three years. It’s a practical and academic course; students work in the gardens. The minimum entry requirements are five GCSEs, two A-levels and two years’ work experience. Ages often range between 18 and 50. There are 14 places a year and trainees are paid the minimum wage plus some study allowance. Also on offer at Kew are eight places on a one-year paid traineeship course and a three-month unpaid horticultural internship.

Royal Horticultural Society
Tel 01483 212335
The RHS takes on nine trainees a year for its Diploma in Practical Horticulture at Wisley in Surrey. The two-year course offers the chance to work in every department at the garden, with one day’s tuition a week. One-year traineeship options are also on offer in five specialist areas. All are paid and the minimum standard for entry is either a National Certificate in Horticulture or RHS Level 2. Applicants from all backgrounds and ages are welcome.

Tresco Abbey Gardens
The Elizabeth Hess Scholarship, awarded annually by the Studley College Trust (, funds trainees at Tresco Abbey. Candidates need to have a basic vocational qualification and show a commitment to a career in horticulture. The closing date for applications is 1 March with training usually starting in September. Trainees are paid and work as part of the staff.

Other bursaries

Women and Work
Tel 02476 696996
If you are a woman already working in the industry, you may qualify for a grant to take short specialist courses.

• For more information about horticultural bursaries visit
• For more advice on gardening careers see

• See issue 170 for our feature giving details and advice on training to be a gardener.

Click here for a list of recommended design courses if you are interested in becoming a garden designer.

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