Rheanna Quinn is in her second year of a level 2 horticultural apprentice at The Royal Horticultural Society Gardens Harlow Carr
RHS Gardens Harlow Carr has given me an experience to remember, not only for the horticultural experience, but for my personal growth as well. Horticulture has always been on the back burner for me, more of a hobby that I would enjoy and help at home with. It wasn’t until I wanted to be outside and want to learn something new every day that I realised I wanted to be a horticulturist. That is when I applied for the RHS level 2 horticultural apprenticeship.
I chose an apprenticeship specifically because I knew I wanted to get my hands dirty, learn as much I can in a practical way and then have college work to back it up. I find that I learn better if I physically see and do a task to understand it properly. Alongside this, I then go to college to learn more of the science theory of what we do in the garden.
These skills are key in any job and being able to put everything into practice in this environment allows me to become the best horticulturist I can be. I help with the general maintenance of the garden, but I also drive tractors, I can prune fruit trees, I can take cuttings of a plant and grow them on, I can mow stripes in the lawns as straight as can be, I can grow vegetables, I can look after tiny specialist Alpine plants and I can identify most plants in the garden. The list could go on and on, but this isn’t just a job, if you throw yourself into the apprenticeship, you will get satisfaction above and beyond out of it.
I absolutely love working for the RHS, it is an amazing place to work and learn. Every member of staff wants to see you learn and progress. The staff are so amazing at their jobs and being able to work alongside them for 2 years is something special. Asking questions and learning from the professionals is definitely not something to take for granted. I feel extremely lucky to be in a position where I am not stuck in the classroom and lectured by a teacher. I am out in the garden, listening to specialists and getting so much out of what they are teaching me every day. Even when I don’t necessarily understand or have to go over something again, they are more than happy to do that with me. If I have a particular interest in a plant that a member of staff has planted, they can help me look into that plant more and help explore that interest.
I have found being out in the fresh air, in all weathers, and being active also has its benefits. Since I started the apprenticeship here at Harlow Carr, it is the happiest and healthiest I have been. I have grown into a strong healthy young person all because I am doing something I love every day and am so active in the garden. When I started working here I was quite quiet and didn’t really speak up in the staff room. Now I am part of the staff room conversation and I have even been complimented on how well I speak and convey information to the public visiting the garden. This confidence has come from how I have been able to throw myself into my learning and therefore grow as a person.
In the future, I know I want to stay within the horticulture industry. At this point in time, I feel that I want to be an all-round horticulturist, working in many aspects of a garden, using lots of different skills. Much like I am doing at Harlow Carr, yet I can always specialise in a plant or area that particularly interests me too. There are so many options after the apprenticeship, the world is most definitely your oyster!
To find out more about apprenticeship training at the Royal Horticultural Society, visit www.rhs.org.uk/training