The amenity horticulture industry is supported by, and only as good as, the “experts” who support it by providing advice, training and guidance to others who work in the industry.
Scope of Work
The amenity horticulture industry is supported by, and only as good as, the “experts” who support it by providing advice, training and guidance to others who work in the industry. This area of work does overlap with other sectors, in particular the media; but it is a little different because these people need to be “experts first”, able to deliver information the client needs in a way tailored to the individual client’s needs (a media person is not so focused on an individual’s needs or specific needs – but rather on a mass market).
This work may involve education (lecturing in a classroom, online education, training in the workplace, personal training), consultancy work (e.g. as a botanist or garden historian), project management (e.g. garden restoration), planning, horticultural therapy (e.g. working in a hospital or sheltered workshop), horticultural tourism (tour guide at a garden or on a garden tour), provision of information through associations and organisations which represent the horticulture and gardening industry.
What You Need to Learn
Plant science - Botany basics; plant biology, anatomy, physiology, anatomy, ecology, nutrition
Plant knowledge - Taxonomy, families, species, cultivars; knowledge of at least 1,000 to 2,000 different cultivars would be considered an absolute minimum for starting in this industry sector
Soils - Soil structure, chemistry, management techniques e.g. improving soils, aeration
Water management - Drainage (surface, subsurface, flood mitigation), irrigation (equipment selection, installation, use)
Health management - Identifying pests, diseases, environmental problems, plant protection
Tools & equipment - Selection of right tool for the job, correct operation & use, maintenance & repair
Horticultural techniques - Plant maintenance (e.g. pruning, planting), propagation, landscaping
Teaching skills - Organising curriculum, presenting lectures, tutorials or training sessions, writing lessons or seminars, assessing students or trainees
Project management - Knowledge of how to plan & organise projects, event management, liaising with event contractors
Media studies - Writing and editing, IT skills, photography, communication skills
Starting a Career
With the exception of those who purposefully set out to work as teachers or lecturers in horticulture and allied industries, many people end up in information services by chance or because their career veered in this direction and it seemed like a natural form of career progression.
To teach in this field may require the completion of teacher training or a post graduate qualification in teaching, but there are also many other opportunities to teach such as private tutoring and providing training services either through an employer or individually.
Those who come to information services from other areas of horticulture may have a leaning towards disseminating information and an urge to represent the industry through professional organisations or as consultants. Many start as enthusiasts in particular fields, e.g. restoration of historical gardens, and become extremely knowledgeable in their chosen area because they enjoy it so much.
Progressing a Career
As with other fields, 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 fields subsumed under horticulture information services should become active in an appropriate trade or professional association.
Professional development is also important. Science, products, equipment and techniques are constantly changing and improving in this 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 tutoring to writing books or setting up a horticulture business.
Since no sector is immune to change, those working in this field with a broader range of knowledge and skills may be able to cross over from one sector to another to take advantage of new trends or easily transition to a different role.
Some may begin in a fairly narrow sector like working as a garden consultant offering advice on identification of plant species in privately owned gardens but through study and experience are able to spread their career over many years by including other types of advice such as pest and disease control, choice of native plants, and cultural practices. Others may end up working in different sectors of horticulture, or even other related industries.