As a Trustee of the Studley College Trust and a serving member of the RHS Bursaries Committee it seems to me that there are too few ‘strong’ applications coming from historic and botanic gardens. I would like to encourage members of the Professional Gardeners Guild, the National Trust, English Heritage, The Institute of Horticulture, PlantNetwork, or others working throughout horticulture to consider applying for a bursary.
Conversely, there would however, appear to be a constant supply of very worthy applications being fed through from the RHS, Kew and the Royal Botanic Gardens Edinburgh. If only there was equal interest from other quarters! The reason for this is perhaps that these large organisations are very good at encouraging, supporting and guiding those involved as trainees and professional employees alike with regard to Continuing Professional Development (CPD). These applications are often very well written showing how the applicant(s) will make the best use of the opportunities presented to gain valuable experience and knowledge.
Perhaps there is also a cultural issue in that students and staff, more academically engaged in horticulture, rightly see study and advancing their knowledge as integral to progressing a career within the profession – whereas, hands on gardeners and head gardeners might not. In my opinion these opportunities are open to all and if we can get that message across effectively these grant-giving bodies will support them. However, I must stress that applying for a bursary does not guarantee funding and proposed projects must be carefully thought through and a detailed application submitted in order to be successful
If our gardens are to present the highest standards of presentation and conservation then those responsible for looking after them should have access to the knowledge and experience that is required. We should all be able to take a look over the garden fence and see what is on the other side!! With new trends and opportunities emerging it seem more important than ever for gardeners to network and develop their knowledge. It is essential, therefore, that the those involved in our profession are encouraged to utilise the funding that is available.
I think that we must do what we can to actively encourage, offer advice and give support to suitable members of staff applying for a bursary. In this way we can ensure that gardeners develop their knowledge of plants and gardens, attend conferences or undertake overseas study tours which provide a rich opportunity to meet with other colleagues and share experiences. A letter of support, or perhaps an introduction to a colleague, may be pivotal to both the application being successful and providing encouragement to an individual as part of career development.
Michael Walker, Head of Garden and Estate, The Trentham Estatemwalker@trentham.co.uk
The Trentham Estate, Management Suite, Stone Road, Trentham Stoke-on-Trent ST4 8AX