Employment as a Gardener

Our top findings:

  1. A gardener is a tradesman whose primary role is to cultivate and maintain plants, shrubs, trees, and outdoor spaces.
  2. It can be a physical profession, but also involves a considerable amount of skill in using the range of tools and equipment required.
  3. A willingness to work outside and an understanding of flora and fauna, are key skills. A passion for plants and gardening is also a core prerequisite.
  4. At the highest end of the profession an ability to design gardens and plan ahead to ensure they are aesthetically pleasing all year round is needed.
  5. Salaries can vary from as little as minimum wage at the most menial end of the scale to considerably more than this if you are a good landscape gardener or garden designer.
  6. Qualifications are not essential, but there are a range of entry level vocational qualifications available, as well as more specialist courses as you progress with your career.
  7. Many gardeners are small businesses, but big employers include local authorities, garden centres, national parks, and stately homes and estates. 

What is a Gardener?

A Gardener is someone whose principal job involves the cultivation of plants, shrubs, trees, and grass, and the maintenance of either private or public outdoor spaces for public use or aesthetic pleasure.

It is a highly physical outdoor profession that involves a significant amount of physical work. If you are tasked with designing as well as constructing or maintaining a garden, there is also a significant amount of skill required to design the basic layout as well as choose the appropriate plants to get the required finish and ensure the garden is looking good all year round.

It is a job that varies with the weather and seasons, and there are numerous different tasks that will need to be undertaken at different times of the year.

 

What Skills and Responsibilities are there?

The job of a gardener can vary wildly depending on the nature of your role and the level of experience and responsibility you have.

At its most basic level, a garden labourer job can involve little more than physical tasks such as removing garden waste, cutting down trees burning leaves, or weeding.

At the top end of the profession, designing and landscaping a large garden or public space can require a great deal of planning and artistic skill, as well as knowledge about things like the types of plants and trees to be used, and the conditions of the area where the garden is.

Depending on the extent of your ambitions within the trade, there are a number of core skills which will be very beneficial to you.

A knowledge and understanding of different types of plants is a distinct advantage. Knowing what conditions they need to thrive, and how to plant and maintain them in a way that keeps them looking at their best is a precise and valuable skill.

An ability to anticipate the needs of your garden or open space and plan ahead to ensure that all the essential work is done at the right time is a great skill. Many people have a natural affinity towards gardening and find this type of skill intuitive. Others have to learn and develop it over a great many years.

There is a wide range of tools and equipment in the gardener’s arsenal that you will need to develop an ability to use safely and well.

Many gardeners work across a range of different locations so a driving license and the means to travel between places of work is often essential.

At the top end of the profession, a sense of vision and creative flair are required to design and plan out exciting new gardens. Experience in design and other such trades can stand you in good stead here, but it is often the case that an ability to plan gardens cannot be taught, but rather is something that you either have a natural flair for, or you don’t.

 

Pay and Benefits

It is very difficult to identify an average wage for a gardener as there is such a huge variety in the nature of the work a role can entail, and therefore the remuneration that can be received.

More often than not a gardener is paid on an hourly basis and therefore the wages can vary from minimum wage at the more basic labouring end of the scale, up to £25 an hour or more for more skilled pursuits.

As a contract gardener working somewhere like a public park or for a local authority, you can expect to earn a salary in the region of £18,000 to £20,000 dependent on experience.

Needless to say a top landscape gardener or garden designer can expect to earn significantly more than that.

 

Qualifications

At the most basic end of the profession there are no requirements for qualifications as such. Everyone who works in the profession should have a passion and devotion to plants and gardening and a love of working outdoors.

There are however some basic level qualifications available and these can often put you ahead of the pack when looking for a job in the industry. These include such qualifications as:

  • An NVQ (National Vocational Qualification) in Horticulture.
  • A BTEC First Certificate in Horticulture or National Certificate in Horticulture
  • A National Proficiency Tests Council (NPTC) Certificate in Gardening.
  • A correspondence learning course with the Horticultural Correspondence College

As you progress in the profession, there is also plenty of scope for gaining additional qualifications to complement your professional experience. This might include more advanced BTEC qualifications or a Higher National Diploma (HND).

Various diplomas and other qualifications are offered by such places as the Royal Botanical Gardens at Kew, and also their Edinburgh establishment.

The Royal Horticultural Society also offers a range of courses and experience to broaden and increase your depth of knowledge, as well as developing skills such as garden design.

At the top end of the profession, there are also degrees you can study for into such specialist areas as botany, dendrology, and horticultural science.

 

Finding Jobs

There is no set route into a career as a gardener. Many private gardeners work as in small local companies or even individually, so employment with them will often be best found through word of mouth or through local advertisements. Getting to know some local gardeners and making them aware of you can often be a useful first step.

Local Authorities are one of the biggest employers of gardeners in the UK, and they advertise for roles on their websites, in the local and regional media, as well as through the job centre and online jobs outlets.

Another popular route into the profession is through work at a local garden centre or nursery, or if you have a local estate where full time gardeners are employed. Another big employer is national parks and botanical gardens if you are lucky enough to live close to one of them.

An apprenticeships can also lead to more permanent work with the organisation you are undertaking your practical work experience with as well, provided of course you work diligently and well whilst on their books.

 

Further Reading

Find out more about Apprenticeships at the Governments official Apprenticeships website.

More details about the various qualifications in gardening that can be obtained through the following providers: The Institute of Horticulture, National Proficiency Tests Council (NPTC), NVQ homepage, Horticultural Correspondence College, and the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS).

For our guides to other trade professions, visit the UKJobsGuide Tradesman’s Job section


 
 
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