There are gardeners, then there are garden lovers. Sometimes they are the same people, but many people love being in gardens, or visiting gardens and garden events; without actually doing gardening. Garden tourism is a viable and growing industry; from hiring gardens for events, to charging people to visit a garden.
Scope of Work
Garden tourism covers a wide range of jobs from those offering package tours which take in famous gardens to the maintenance and upkeep of public parks and gardens such as heritage or national trust ones. The types of roles undertaken can vary from arranging garden maintenance so as to keep gardens in tiptop condition through to organising events and garden tours. The best garden tour operators also have detailed knowledge of the gardens, their history and evolution over time, the garden designers, and the social and cultural significance of the gardens.
Related businesses in the private garden tourism industry include garden history consultants, events management, travel & tourism, ecotourism, garden conservation & restoration, environmental management and garden maintenance.
What You Need to Learn
Taxonomy - Knowledge of plant & turf species & cultivars, identification & cultural characteristics of many different varieties, and weed species
General garden management - Knowledge of basic garden maintenance, dealing with maintenance contractors, watering frequency and duration, management and use of irrigation
Garden history - Awareness of the evolution of garden design, different garden styles, significance of famous gardens and gardeners, botanists & plant discoveries
Event management - Knowledge of how to arrange tours & garden events, liaising with event contractors
Sales skills - How to interact with customers, sell tours, earn repeat business, network with tour operators, make bookings, keep inventories, marketing, advertising
Health & safety - Assessment of risks & hazards, use of personal protective equipment, fire alarms & drills, location of first aid kits, basic first aid procedures
Starting a Career
There are many points of entry into this line of work. Some start with no training or experience, as little more than an assistant for a garden tour operator, 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.
Because initial training lays a foundation to build further learning on, and gives context to what you learn later through study or experience; it is very important that your initial training is from instructors who have a strong understanding of the knowledge and skills that underpin garden tourism - and that the course you study is delivered in a way that does not just present and test you quickly, but takes time to revisit, reinforce and embed the fundamentals of garden tourism into your long-term memory.
People who take shortcuts to getting started can succeed; but people who lay a stronger foundation are likely to be more capable, and that generally tends to lead to higher earnings and more long term career success.
Common ways to get started are:
Getting a job with someone else (e.g. a garden tour operator)
Starting your own garden tourism business
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.
Challenges sometimes reveal deficiencies in your knowledge. If that happens, you may see something you need to learn, by doing research or studying a course. The person who responds positively to such challenges and sees them as opportunities for career advancement will progress.
If there are aspects of what you need to learn which are deficient, then ongoing study is advised to fill those gaps.
Networking within your industry is critical to not only learning more; but also getting new opportunities. Everyone working in garden tourism should become active in a tourism or horticultural trade or professional association.
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. This is another reason you should remain involved with a professional or trade organisation.
Diversifying your learning and experience is a natural, and often very successful, way of helping your career to progress. This could involve doing additional study in order to broaden the services you can offer; or deepen the quality of service you offer. It may also allow you to cross over into other related career paths; perhaps moving from private garden tours into public garden tours, or even into areas like ecotourism, or tourism generally.
The many sectors of horticulture can go through cycles of high and low demand for experts. The horticulturist who has a broader range of knowledge and skills may be able to cross over from one sector to another, taking advantage of these cycles. They may for example, work in local private garden tourism when there is a high demand and good remuneration offered in this sector; and move from that into private garden tourism in other cities or countries when demand and opportunity in those areas becomes stronger. Enlightened tourism operators may begin in a narrow sector such as private garden tours, but through study and experience, fashion a career path over decades that winds across many different sectors of tourism or horticulture.