Natasha Hall

Natasha an apprentice at RHS Garden Bridgewater

Natasha Hall

I think everyone finds a connection to plants in some way, whether it’s through the food we eat and medicines that heal us, or the natural landscapes where we find beauty and inspiration. Growing up I spent a lot of time playing out, hiking with Scouts and pottering in my Nonna’s vegetable garden, and as an adult I spend as much time as possible exploring woodlands, beaches, and mountains, so I have never been far away from plants.

I love the varied nature of the apprenticeship and enjoy rotating between different teams, meaning that I get to experience each part of the garden at different times of the year. My colleagues are extremely passionate and knowledgeable and work very hard so that we can develop our horticultural skills- I have even practised pruning grape vines outdoors in Salford, something I thought I would never do. RHS Garden Bridgewater is the newest of the five RHS gardens and I have really enjoyed being part of its development, especially welcoming visitors from Salford and nearby Manchester who like me do not have easy access to a large garden.

I was nervous about applying for the apprenticeship programme as I do not have an academic background in anything remotely biology based, did not know the name of a single famous gardener, never mind the Latin names of any plants. However, I quickly realised that my passion for horticulture and desire to learn was the only thing that mattered. My colleagues are from so many different backgrounds and have an amazing variety of specialisms, meaning that there is no one type of horticulturalist. As a career changer I also had some anxiety about being a student again, but the workload is manageable and learning about plant science has helped me to understand how the garden works.

I have been made to feel extremely welcome. The programme is well structured, and my colleagues and manager have helped me to settle in. As I’m a few months in I feel I’m now getting to grips with the seasonal jobs in the garden and am enjoying feeling in harmony with the seasons. At the moment I am designing my own veg plot for the kitchen garden which is based on my Nonna’s vegetable garden and full of Italian brassicas and herbs. The kitchen garden is in the heart of the walled garden, so it is a privilege for us to have a plots here.

There has been lots of attention given to the therapeutic benefits of gardening in the last few years, and I have certainly felt the physical and mental benefits of being in the garden. Being outdoors and active has helped me to sleep better, and seeing the incredible resilience of plants in tough conditions always makes me feel hopeful.

Although starting the apprenticeship was daunting, I would recommend anyone to apply. Doing an apprenticeship is a unique opportunity to apply what you are learning directly in a world-class garden, and that is something that a classroom course just can’t provide. With university fees being so high, an apprenticeship is a great way to get paid to learn and gain work experience at the same time. Through the apprenticeship I have also made contacts with professionals in other gardens and have been granted an RHS bursary to do a week’s work experience at the Eden Project, where I will get to spent time with the tropical plants that fascinate me.

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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.