Decorative Horticulture - Public Gardens

Decorative horticulture involves growing plants to improve the aesthetics of the environment. The type of work involved is mainly soft landscaping, which is working with plants and turf. It can involve selecting plants to use, creating planting plans, planting into beds or containers, and maintaining plantscapes.

 

 

Scope of Work

Decorative horticulture involves growing plants to improve the aesthetics of the environment. The type of work involved is mainly soft landscaping, which is working with plants and turf. It can involve selecting plants to use, creating planting plans, planting into beds or containers, and maintaining plant scapes.  

Public authorities traditionally grow and maintain floral displays in a range of situations (e.g. borders in parks, entrances to public buildings, train stations, traffic islands, baskets hanging from buildings or lamp posts). It can also include selecting and maintaining plants inside public buildings so knowledge of interior plants may be needed.

Pots of colourful plants are also purpose grown to provide colour in special situations such as important civil ceremonies or events. This decorative horticulture work can require a specialised skill to be done properly; and may be an important area of work for some public authorities, more so than others.

What You Need to Learn

  • Plant knowledge - Taxonomy, identification & cultural characteristics of many different varieties (at least 500 to 1000 species and cultivars to begin with)
  • Plant science - Botany basics; biology, physiology, anatomy, ecology, nutrition
  • Plant cultural techniques - Planting, watering, pruning, weed control
  • Potting media and soils - Structure, chemistry, management techniques (e.g. improving media, aeration)
  • Environmental control - Ventilation, irrigation & misting, heating & cooling, lighting, carbon dioxide injection
  • Health management - Identifying and controlling pests & diseases, environmental disorders
  • Tools and equipment - Selection of the right tool for the job, correct operation & use, maintenance & repair of tools, machinery use

 

Starting a Career

Anyone who displays persistence and passion, as well as having basic horticultural knowledge, may be able to get a foothold into an entry level position in public amenity horticulture. Many of the available jobs are not advertised but are often offered to people who make themselves known to public employers like council departments or local government, or by showing up at the amenities that they run and offering their services.

Some start with no training or experience, as little more than a labourer assisting a gardener, learning on the job and progressing as they learn. This path can be slow though, and there may be gaps in knowledge that can lead to mistakes and restrict career progress. Some formal learning in at least key areas listed above will help a career move faster and minimise the risk of career or business mistakes.

Others may start out working for private gardening businesses and make the shift to public ones later when they have built a solid foundation of skills.

The other route is to study horticulture or gardening before seeking a position or combine study with part time work. Any courses studied, whether formal or informal should reinforce and embed the fundamentals of gardening into your long-term memory.

 

Progressing a Career

You will learn through experience as you work in the industry. Every problem or challenge you confront can be a new learning experience. The person who responds positively to such challenges, and sees them as opportunities for career advancement, will progress. If there are aspects of the list above (what you need to learn) which are deficient then ongoing study is advised to fill those gaps.

Professional development is also important. Science, products, equipment and techniques are constantly changing and improving in turf as well as every other industry. If you are disconnected from industry change, you will not remain competitive with others who are up to date. It is therefore a good idea to be involved with a professional or trade organisation.

Large government or council departments offer an excellent opportunity for career progression starting as a labourer and progressing through to more technical or supervisory roles. Those who apply themselves and display a good attitude will advance well.  It is also important to continue learning. It is always good from the point of view of career advancement to seek out study courses which address deficiencies in learning. In particular, people wishing to make a good career in public landscaping should focus on addressing the areas listed under ‘what you need to learn’ above.

Those who have worked in public amenity gardening are in a good position to move to other areas of horticulture if they so wish, or other related industries.