Our parks and green spaces provide many health, life quality and community integration benefits to society. Gardeners grow and maintain plants in a variety of different settings, including public and heritage parks, private and botanical gardens, plant nurseries, sports facilities, roadside verges and open green spaces.
As no two parks or gardens are the same, the work is varied, interesting and provides a wide variety of tasks and opportunities. It covers all stages in the care and planting of flower beds, trees, shrubs, lawns and managing and maintaining gardens or green spaces. There is also the general maintenance of green areas plus erecting fences and hard landscape tasks, for example, laying paths.
Many Gardeners work in areas open to the public and can be involved in visitor management, events, leading garden walks and contributing to the interpretation and marketing of the site. Gardeners must work to maximise visitor enjoyment by maintaining excellent standards of presentation within the environment.
A Gardener's work involves a variety of jobs including:
- Cutting grass and hedges
- Seasonal maintenance of shrubs and trees
- Digging, planting and weeding flower beds and borders
- Laying mulch (compost, bark or other materials) around plants
- Propagation, plant production and maintenance under glass
- Clearing and planting flower beds
- Pest and disease control and the timely and safe use of pesticides as directed
- Clearing leaves and litter
- Cleaning and maintaining machinery and equipment.
Gardeners will be expected to use a range of tools and mechanical equipment, ranging from hand forks to large vehicle-mounted equipment requiring specialised training.
The work may involve basic building, such as erecting sheds or conservatories or building patios, walls, decking and fencing.
Gardeners involved in ground maintenance may work in small teams to make sure parks and public spaces are regularly maintained. Some Gardeners may also be involved in park safety, carrying out regular checks on children's playgrounds.
Gardeners may specialise in:
- Trees and shrubs (arboriculture)
- Maintaining specialist play surfaces such as cricket and football pitches (Groundsman) and golf courses (Greenkeeper)
- Interior landscaping and looking after plants in office blocks, shopping arcades and other indoor areas
- Restoring old gardens
- Tree-planting schemes
- The regeneration of derelict land.
Many Gardeners are self-employed, working for private individuals and offering services from basic lawn mowing and hedge trimming to full garden design.
Gardeners usually work around 37 hours a week, varying over the year. In the growing season, they often start very early in the morning and need to be flexible and willing to work extra hours at peak times to keep gardens and parks looking at their best. Overtime, part-time and casual or seasonal work is available.
Gardeners work outdoors in all weathers. Some jobs, such as working in the gardens of a historic house, involve regular contact with the public.
Gardeners may also have to climb ladders, use noisy machinery or apply chemicals and fertilisers to improve soils or kill pests and diseases.
Salaries vary with experience, qualifications and between companies, but here's a guide to what you can expect.
Experience is an advantage, but training is usually provided.
Employers are looking for people who:
- Be interested in plants and nature
- Have dedication to the practice and development of high quality gardening and craft skills
- Be interested in the landscape and the environment
- Enjoy working outdoors.
What experienced workers can do
- Establish effective rapport with customers
- Use equipment and machinery
- Remove unwanted plant growth
- Apply pesticides
- Propagate plants
- Prepare ground for establishing plants
- Establish plants in a medium
- Maintain the condition of grassed areas
- Maintain trees and woodlands
- Provide nutrients and water to plants.
Personal qualities you should have
- Able to work as part of a team or on your own
- Friendly and approachable.
In organisations employing teams of Gardeners, such as local authorities or heritage organisations, it may be possible to become a supervisor managing a team of gardeners, overseeing regular maintenance work and planning new planting schemes. Some Gardeners move into different areas of gardening work.
There are many opportunities for Gardeners with relevant experience to diversify into different careers, including outdoor recreation officer, countryside officer, horticultural education officer, forestry worker and landscape designer. There are also opportunities to specialise in areas of Botanical and Heritage Gardens.
There may also be opportunities to work abroad.