Hayley Johnston talks to Paul Johnston, owner of Bircham Trees and Landscapes, about what it is like to be a landscape gardener.

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Jobs24 factfile: landscape gardener

Training

You do not always need qualifications for this role but most employers will expect you to have gardening knowledge and experience. Many qualifications will be work based which you can work towards once you have found work, paid or voluntary. A driving licence would be useful as you may have to drive to sites that you are working on.

Timescale

A full time level 2 course will take one year to complete

Local training

• College of West Anglia 01553 761144/ www.cwa.ac.uk

Full and part time courses in horticulture and garden design including RHS accredited courses and apprenticeships.

• Easton College 01603 731200/ www.easton-college.ac.uk

Full and part time courses in practical horticulture and garden design as well as short courses in garden machinery and garden design.

• Apprenticeships www.apprenticeships.org.uk

• Doubleday & Co 01362 820007/ www.doubledayandco.co.uk

A day workshop in The Garden & Horticultural Skills

• Bikeways 01502 714661/ www.bikeways.org.uk

Day courses on an organic small holding in the Waveney Valley in fruit tree pruning, ground preparation, seed saving and soil fertility.

• Volunteering www.do-it.org.uk

An excellent database with regularly changing opportunities to gain experience in a wide range of job roles.

Salary range

Landscape gardeners can earn between £15,000 - £20,000 per year

Why is it a good profession to get into?

Being a landscape gardener is a good profession to get into because it teaches you a wide range of skills so it is never boring. With it being a physical job, it keeps you fit and I think that working outdoors keeps you healthier.

What does the work involve?

I design and build gardens for private customers which means I could be doing anything from re-laying turf, building pergolas or planting shrubs. I am self employed and generally start at 8am and finish at 5pm. I tend to find that my quietest part of the year is January and February as people tend to have less money after Christmas and the weather is pretty bad, which of course makes my job very difficult.

What are the positives/negatives of the profession?

The positives would be the variety of things that you get to do and no day is the same! The best thing about my job would without a doubt be the satisfaction of changing a wasteland into a beautiful garden. Also, as I am self employed, I have more freedom than I would do if I was employed by someone. Negatives would definitely be working in the freezing cold which is not at all pleasant. If I could, I would spend 3 months landscaping in a hot place like Cyprus or Sicily!

Is there much local demand for people trained in this area?

Personally, I am not hiring anyone at the moment but you never know what the future holds! I do however think there is a growing industry for Landscape Gardeners, because of more TV coverage and the realisation that your garden is a proper asset to your home. I do also think that finding an apprenticeship with a trained gardener in the area is hard because of the tough economic times.

What would employers look for in someone applying for a vacancy?

In my opinion you need to be is keen, fit, healthy, have common sense, happy and enthusiastic as there is nothing worse than spending the day with someone who is miserable! You can be successful by doing an NVQ in Arboriculture or a Higher National Diploma for 3 years and obviously having experience will help you get a job.

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