Anthony Callan

Anthony was ready for a change of careers and so began with an RHS qualification


I’d been looking at gardening jobs for some time and fast realised that an RHS Level 2 qualification was essential as an entry point. To connect with other enthusiastic horticulturists in a structured learning environment I signed up to a Wednesday evening course, which quickly became the highlight of my week.

My tutor was engaging, encouraging and had such a wealth of knowledge that I found inspiring . The material covered was so appropriate to the daily horticulture I undertook. The learning environment was so open and we talked as a class about shared experiences and techniques so that I could recall vital information when it came to the exams. It felt like everything we learned had a ‘story’ behind it that I could only have picked up in the classroom environment.

I felt fully immersed in the course and the practical class gave me another opportunity to network with likeminded individuals. We were even given our own plot of land to work and demonstrate our newly learnt skills, which was immensely satisfying. Practical classes were demonstrated clearly and methodically with opportunities to experiment and celebrate our varying styles.

Learning as a group allowed us all to pick up different skills from one another.
I felt it was essential for me to get some volunteering experience in gardening as this was listed on most job specifications. 

I began volunteering at a local growing nursery, over the weekends while keeping my full time job. The owners taught me everything they knew from propagating to growing and showing which gaveme the experience to be a practical help on their RHS Show stands.

After I had gained my Level 2, and one year’s voluntary experience, I applied for a job at Trentham Gardens. The RHS courses gave me a wide range of information I could recall at interview level and validate my competence. When it came to practical interview exercises, I felt confident with my knowledge and demonstration skills.

I was successful in getting the placement and my career took off from there. I spent 18 glorious months at Trentham Gardens applying the skills I had learnt through my RHS course, and developing and building upon them.

In addition, I began to build up a network of horticultural friends and individuals I could bounce my knowledge and my passion off. Those friends are the people I call upon now, and we have each gone on in different directions fuelled by our drive and passion for horticulture.

The RHS courses gave me confidence in writing and using horticultural terminology as well as a sound basis of plant knowledge moving into my new career.

After my initial 12-month placement I was retained at Trentham Gardens, being promoted from trainee to gardener with my own areas of responsibility. I later secured a Senior Gardener role with the National Trust at Quarry Bank Mill.

The sense of fulfilment I now have is so far removed from my previous career. I feel lucky that I was able to turn my ultimate passion into something I get to exercise every day and I owe all of this to those individuals I have met along my horticultural journey that believed in me and gave me a chance.

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The Royal Horticultural Society is the UK’s leading gardening charity. We aim to enrich everyone’s life through plants, and make the UK a greener and more beautiful place.