What’s that I hear you say? “I want to be an orchid hunter” – then read on to find out about horticultural careers.
It’s the Chelsea Flower Show this week (24– 28 May), which makes it a great time to think about gardening jobs. Below we present some interesting horticultural career options you may never have heard of, show a coupe of interviews with young horticulturalists and provide some useful sources of further information for if you are interested in learning more.
Myth-busting about careers in horticulture
Did you know that 50 percent of you think that careers in horticulture don’t require any skills? Also, 70 per cent of 18 year olds assume that horticultural careers are for people who are not academic.
Maybe this is because you don’t understand the many, many careers that are available in the horticulture industry. Well – let’s do something about that, because you might be missing out on a really rewarding career. Whether your passion is photography, art or science there is a career for you in horticulture. Add to this the fact that 72 per cent of employers in the industry struggle to fill vacancies (the so-called ‘Green Skills crisis’) and a career in horticulture looks like a smart choice for the savvy teenager.
What is horticulture and why does it matter?
Horticulture is the art, science, technology and business of cultivating all sorts of plants, including: medicinal plants, fruits, vegetables and grains, herbs, and ornamental trees.
Horticulture matters because the horticultural industry is a massive contributor to the UK economy and because our environment and food security depend on it.
Five horticulture career options that you might not have considered
Horticultural scientists study all forms of plant life in the laboratory, and in the natural environment. They work in environmental conservation, agriculture, forestry, horticulture, medicine, biotechnology and food science, so there are plenty of opportunities and you might work in a university, for a conservation organisation or for a food production company.
What does a horticultural scientist do?
Horticultural scientists identify, classify, record and monitor plant species in order to understand their growth and how to improve it or studying the effects of the environment on plant life.
Plant breeders use a range of techniques in order to produce new and improved varieties of plants. Their work involves crossing existing plants as well as selecting new strains. Plant breeders are involved with other disciplines such as entomology and pathology as they have to develop an understanding of pests and diseases.
Why do we need plant breeders?
The changing environment (growing conditions), consumer demands and changes to farming and environmental policies means there is a constant need for new plant varieties.
Most soil science opportunities are in specialist research centres, although some are employed by companies developing and producing growing media. Some soil scientists can also be found researching and teaching in universities.
Are soil scientists important?
Soil, as well as other growing media is necessary for food production, plant and animal life and for providing a foundation for building.
What does a soil scientist do?
Soil scientists provide data on the chemistry, biology and physics of the soil or alternative growing media.
Even if you live in the city, you probably look for some natural space at some times. Landscape contractors transform design ideas and scruffy building sites into havens of natural beauty. Their practical skills mean that they are able to do things like build paths and ponds, sculpt earth contours and tend plants.
Landscape contractors can be self-employed landscapers or can be employed by landscaping firms and they work on private projects as well as undertaking big public or private sector projects. You could also find out about a career as a landscape architect.
Growing plants, seeing cuttings root and seeing seeds grow into healthy plants can bring great enjoyment to people with learning difficulties and disabled people as well as many others.
Working with plants can help develop self-confidence and self-expression and working as a horticultural therapist means that you would be part of the caring profession, but also would allow you to combine a career in care with a love of horticulture.
Anyway, don’t take our word for it – take a look at some of the videos below, where you can hear from people working in the horticultural sector why they love their job.
I love my job” says Leif, 19, an Orchid hunter and photographer
I love my job” says Anna, 23, a diagnostic entomologist
So, if you hadn’t thought about a horticultural career before – perhaps you will now. There are all sorts of specialist degree programmes for scientist careers in horticulture and there are also lots of apprenticeship job opportunities on offer as the industry reaches out to young people.