Page last updated at 11:39 GMT, Saturday, 28 February 2009

Gardening image 'puts off young'

Powis Castle

A leading gardener says horticulture's image problem means very few young people take it up as a career.

As Powis Castle opens on Sunday for the first time this year, Adrian Lovatt says persuading the young to take up a gardening career is difficult.

Mr Lovatt began as a trainee at the tourist attraction in Welshpool, Powys, and has now returned in the top job.

The Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) said traditionally poor wages had been blamed for a lack of interest.

Adrian Lovatt
Horticulture tends to pay badly, and I think it has an image problem
Adrian Lovatt

Mr Lovatt, originally from Market Drayton in Shropshire, comes from a long line of gardeners, and he said horticulture was in his blood.

He was a trainee in his early 20s at Powis Castle in 1991 and has now returned as its head gardener - only its third in 25 years.

"Very few young people are going into horticulture, and there's a bit of a skills gap," he said.

"Recruiting is quite difficult, and I think traditionally young people have been given bad career advice [about gardening] in schools.

"Horticulture tends to pay badly, and I think it has an image problem."

In 2007, an RHS study of young people aged between 13 and 18 found that 62% thought horticulture was another word for farming, while most said it was a career for "old or retired people".

Mr Lovatt, who has a diploma from the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, and is also a graduate of botany from London University, is a former assistant curator of the Eden Project in Cornwall.

He is also a former head gardener of Gresgarth Hall in Lancashire and Godinton Park in Kent.

The 12th Century Powis Castle is regarded as one of the jewels in the National Trust's crown.

One of its guide books waxes lyrical about Powis being "gardening on the grandest scale".

Its 300-year-old hanging terraces are renowned as some of the best surviving examples of baroque garden architecture in the UK.

It also has up to 3,000 plants, 300-year-old Yew trees, and it takes four gardeners three months to trim the hedges.

The gardens at Powis Castle open to the public on St David's Day, Sunday, 1 March, and remain open until 9 November.

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