The best horticulture courses
If you're looking for a gardening course or would like to retrain in horticulture, here's a selection of the UK's leading schools offering horticulture and gardening courses.
Interest in training in horticulture has never been higher. The Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) recently announced that it has seen close to a 25 per cent increase in applications for its diploma in Horticultural Practice – nearly six times as many applicants as places. And for the second year running, the majority (57 per cent in 2022) of applicants are female.
Horticulture is a rapidly growing area of the economy, thanks to public interest in gardening, plants, sustainability, the environment and food security.
A career in horticulture means that you could swap a desk for a green office, working outside and with plants. If you're looking to train in horticulture, you'll find many opportunities for study and training. A horticulture course can lead to many different careers in horticulture, not only that of a gardener.
The qualifications recognised across the industry – BTEC National Diploma, NVQs and City & Guilds, HND and the range of RHS qualifications – are good starting points for a gardening career. You can also do a degree in horticulture and other related disciplines.
Many colleges around the UK offer part-time courses and some training placements offer these in tandem with hands-on gardening work. Horticultural apprenticeships are also available. Many colleges now offer distance learning or online courses, too.
Here is a list of the main horticultural colleges and universities around the UK. Be sure to check your local college, too, as many also offer horticultural courses, including RHS courses.
The best horticulture courses in 2022 and 2023
Askham Bryan College, York
This long established and specialist land-based college in Yorkshire offers a wide range of horticultural and land-based qualifications.
B.E.S.T in Horticulture Group
B.E.S.T in Horticulture was started by horticultural experts Tony Davies and Janet Prescott to provide horticultural education outside a conventional college environment. Their team of tutors and subject specialists come from a number of horticultural colleges and the industry. Courses are either face to face at a range of sites, online, via correspondence or blended learning, with bespoke learning materials provided.
Bridgwater and Taunton College (formerly Cannington College)
One of the largest centres for agricultural and horticultural studies in Somerset. It offers a range of full and part time horticulture, gardening and landscape design courses, apprenticeships and short courses. The college is offering a new Plant Botany and Sustainable Horticulture in the Modern World course from September 2022, supported by the Soil Association and Yeo Valley Organic. Chemical-free methods and specific organic practices will be paramount in every area of the programme. Aimed at keen amateurs or those wishing to gain employment in a range of horticultural careers, it can be studied alongside the RHS Level 2 Certificate in Practical Horticulture.
Capel Manor College, London
London’s only specialist further education college for horticulture, with study centres in Enfield, Gunnersbury, Crystal Palace and Regent’s Park. Offers courses in horticulture and landscaping, garden design and floristry.
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Offers an extensive range of practical horticulture courses at varying levels, plus a degree in Horticulture and Landscape design in conjunction with the Eden Project.
Eden Project, Cornwall
Offers a range of horticultural courses, from HNC to MSc level, with hands-on experience in the Eden Project grounds.
Hadlow College, Kent
Hadlow College has been providing horticultural training for 50 years and has strong links to the industry. It offers an extensive range of horticultural training in many areas of horticulture.
Kingston Maurward College
This Dorset college offers a range of horticulture courses at varying levels.
Merrist Wood College, Surrey
Part of Guildford College, Merrist Wood specialises in horticulture and land-based studies, with a wide range of courses at all levels offered.
A leading land-based college in the north west, offering a wide range of courses at different levels, including City & Guilds and RHS courses.
Pershore College, Worcestershire
Offers a full range of land-based courses, from arboriculture to garden design and landscaping. The college has a long-established reputation.
The Plant School
The Plant School offers two core courses: The Plant Course and the Tree Course, as well as the Specialist Plant Course and Trees for Dendrologists. Taught at gardens in and around London (including the Garden Museum and RBG Kew) and taught by a range of experts, each course aims to give the student a good grounding in plant knowledge and runs one day a month through the academic year.
This East Sussex college offers a wide range of land-based and horticulture courses at varying levels, as well as apprenticeships and one-day courses.
This leading Cheshire college offers horticultural courses for all levels. There are also apprenticeship options.
Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew
The School of Horticulture at RBG Kew is a centre of excellence for horticultural and botanical education and offers several highly respected qualifications, including the Diploma in Horticulture. As employees of Kew, Diploma students receive payment for the duration of the three-year course and there are no course fees and gain practical experience at one of the most comprehensive botanic collections in the world. Kew also offers specialist certificates in subjects including arboriculture and display and nursery glasshouses.
Kew's educational programming also involves a raft of apprenticeships and internships, in both science as well as horticulture, through Kew’s School of Horticulture. There are also a raft of short courses and online courses.
Royal Horticultural Society
The RHS runs its prestigious Diploma in Practical Horticultural Practice at RHS Garden Wisley. Students rotate through 10 departments at the Surrey site and the two-year course also comprises a detailed lecture and masterclass programme.
The RHS also offers horticultural qualifications that are widely recognised and respected within the horticulture industry. The RHS Level 1 qualification is aimed at 14-19 year olds and adults with additional learning needs and the popular RHS Level 2 qualification is aimed at people wanting to begin a horticultural career or build a foundation for further learning or training. It has been updated for September 2022.
The Level 3 qualification, which will be updated from September 2023, is aimed at those already working in horticulture and wanting to further their career.
All RHS Qualifications are designed to be studied part-time basis, normally over one year, and can be studied in person or online or as a mix of the two. The courses are not taught directly by the RHS but are offered at approved centres at colleges and gardens around the country. To find a course near you, go to rhs.org.uk/findacentre
Scotland's Rural College (SRUC)
Offers a wide range of horticulture courses at varying levels, plus production horticulture, landscape management and an MSc in Soils and sustainability. Some courses are delivered in partnership with the Glasgow Botanic Gardens and the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh.
University of Greenwich
The University of Greenwich offers several courses in landscape architecture, including the only undergraduate landscape architecture course of its kind in London.
University of Sheffield
Sheffield University’s Department of Landscape offers research and taught courses in landscape architecture. Professor Nigel Dunnett is Professor of Planting Design and Vegetation Technology.
Writtle University College
This specialist college in Essex offers courses that take students to degree and post-graduate level on a full and part-time basis, as well as apprenticeships. There is also a range of short courses in practical horticulture and landscaping techniques. Scholarship and bursary schemes are available.
Veronica Peerless is a trained horticulturalist and garden designer.
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