What does it take to make a career as a professional horticulturist? A strong back? Green fingers? A love of nature and of working alone outdoors? A willingness to get your hands dirty? All this aside, what are the best horticultural courses/ most useful educational routes? The career prospects? The average rate of pay? These are just some of the questions to which I would have dearly loved answers when I first contemplated retraining as a gardener so many moons ago.
Things have changed a lot for budding horticulturists in the intervening years, not only in terms of the variety of educational routes available to them, but also in terms of the increasingly diverse range of horticultural careers.
One of the third-level colleges leading the field in this regard is Waterford Institute of Technology (WIT). Graduates of its three-year (Level 7) Bachelor of Science in Horticulture and its follow-on one-year (Level 8/ Honours) in Land Management Bachelor of Science in Horticulture, which it runs in partnership with Teagasc and Kildalton College in Piltown, Co Kilkenny, have gone on to work not only as craft gardeners in public and private gardens and parks, but also as horticultural therapists, nursery and garden centre managers, landscapers, garden designers, florists, interior landscapers, greenkeepers, market gardeners, lab technicians and flower farmers. In fact, according to Dr Cara Daly, the plant scientist, WIT horticulture lecturer and programme leader, the world is their oyster as long as they’re determined, adaptable, enthusiastic and prepared to work hard in a career that they've chosen because they love it.