Master of Horticulture: Candidate Stories

Why some of our candidates took the prestigious RHS Master of Horticulture award, and what it has done for their careers

Lynn HeslopLynn Heslop
Owner of Dewberry Horticulture

Lynn’s interest in horticulture started during a traumatic period in her life, while she was recuperating from thyroid surgery. Sitting in her garden, she realised she relished the physical act of gardening and the joy of watching the first seedlings emerge. Lynn said: “I realised I wanted to keep experiencing this new found pleasure every day. Studying part-time for an RHS Level 2 qualification gave me a goal and kept me busy. I quickly followed this with the RHS Level 3 qualification to expand my practical skills and knowledge. I then took a leap of faith and set up my own garden design business.”
Making the decision to study for the RHS Master of Horticulture (MHort) Award was a key turning point to push herself to the top of her profession and grow her fledgling business. Lynn added: “The programme offered flexibility through distance learning, which was essential to fit around my new career and my children.”
Lynn explained: “The diverse range of topics covered has given me a broad base for running my garden design business and a better understanding of the wider horticultural picture. Along the way, I met so many wonderful fellow students and tutors from across the horticultural sphere. These have turned into great friends that I know I can call upon for advice and support.”
In 2019, Lynn created her first-ever show garden at the RHS Chatsworth Flower Show. The design, ‘From Darkness to Light’, represented the journey undertaken by a person who has experienced trauma into a lighter and brighter place. “I was thrilled to be awarded a Silver medal and hope that this is just the start of great things to come. I have enjoyed all the challenges and opportunities that MHort has brought and believe that it has benefitted me in so many positive ways,” said Lynn.

Ray GoodwinRoy Godwin
Head Gardener at Sherborne Castle Estate, an RHS Partner Garden

Roy was originally attracted to MHort because the RHS represents the highest level of horticultural excellence in training and education, with the award considered the most prestigious in the industry. 
Currently in his final year, Roy is undertaking research for his 10,000 word dissertation and is exploring a specialised topic. Roy said: “I’ve chosen the treescapes of the Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown garden at Sherborne Castle Estate, where I’m Head Gardener. This has allowed me to rediscover the garden here, providing a window into the past.”
MHort has a team of horticultural experts actively working within the industry to provide support and tutoring to students. Roy explained: “Through them, I’ve learned new skills in project and resource management. I’ve developed a better understanding of business strategies and have a greater awareness of scientific, economic and social issues within the horticultural sector, on a global scale. This in-depth and up-to-date knowledge enables me to make more accurate and informed decisions. The study programme is flexible and the material ingeniously designed to encourage candidates to hone their skills.”
Roy continued: “The MHort programme has also taught me useful skills such as problem-solving and effective communication, providing an excellent link between practical horticulture and academic learning. This has prepared me for many of the challenges I may be presented with in a professional environment.”
MHort also connects candidates with a wide and established network of professional horticulturists. Roy explained: “This is fantastic. Networking allows horticulturists to share knowledge and experience, continuously evolving an understanding of horticulture and, making us more effective as professionals. Critically, it also provides horticulturists with up-to-date knowledge about training, legislation, biosecurity and best practice.”

Rebecca Keeble-PayneRebecca Keeble-Payne
Head Gardener at Llysdinam Gardens, Powys

Rebecca was looking for a programme of study that would recognise horticulture as a professional discipline, push her out of her comfort zone and enable her to keep learning. MHort offered Rebecca structured home learning, tutor appraisal, and the opportunity to be part of a like-minded group of candidates. Rebecca explained: “All of the knowledge acquired through the programme has been applicable to my work. The wide variety of topics gave me a good overview of areas of the horticultural industry that I may not have previously considered.”
Rebecca said: “Writing a dissertation gave me the opportunity to concentrate on a specific area of interest and really explore it in detail, utilising all the skills I'd acquired over the three years of study. It was very important to me to produce something that would benefit me in my work, and that would hopefully be of interest to others working in historic gardens.”

Rebecca's dissertation on the ‘Planting Guidelines for the Restoration of Historic Gardens’ taught her how important it is to look at the planting as an integral part of the whole restoration and not just as an afterthought.
Upon completing the MHort, Rebecca had a much greater insight into all areas of the horticulture industry. It helped to better inform her decision-making and gave her a better perspective and overview of Llysdinam Gardens as a whole. She also developed a real love of garden history. “The overriding positive I'll take away from the programme is the introduction to so many supportive people. I've made friends who've provided me with access to a network of like-minded people all across the country in varied horticultural areas. I am immensely proud of the fact that I achieved this award,” added Rebecca.

Franzi CheesemanFranzi Cheeseman
Head Gardener at Stoke Poges Memorial Gardens and owner of Franzi Cheeseman Garden Design

Franzi wanted to do some formal study just for the joy of learning, but needed the structure of a programme to help her with that goal. MHort was her choice. As a part-time and distance learning programme, it fitted in alongside Franzi’s work and other commitments, which she found really useful. “The programme has given me improved knowledge to look after heritage gardens, honed my business skills and expanded my horizons on all things horticulture.”

Franzi added: “I wrote my dissertation about pests and diseases on Buxus. The Memorial Gardens at Stoke Poges are Grade l listed on the Register of Historic Parks and Gardens. They contain five large box parterres, which is about two kilometres of box hedging. We had significant problems with box blight, and it was clear that we needed to take serious action. As a result of what I learnt through writing my dissertation I found positive ways of dealing with the problems, and have an action plan for my site, which is showing positive results already. Our box hedges are improving and starting to look their old selves again,” said Franzi. 

One of the things Franzi loves about horticulture is that she has never stopped learning. “The MHort programme has increased my confidence in my professional knowledge, my skills, the way I approach clients and generally the work I do,”  added Franzi. 


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