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The Young Horticulturist

Horticulture as a Career

A Career in Gardening and Science 

Rob Cotterill Mhort (RHS) MCIHort

Enjoy Gardening and Science as a Career
Rob is a horticulturist who always knew that gardening was his vocation. He started his career as an apprentice for a parks department, has worked in nurseries and gardens, for landscapers and for horticultural colleges, both in this country and abroad.
He now runs a garden design and maintenance business with his wife in Somerset.

Visit his website

Rob who believes as I do that a little science knowledge is of great benefit to a gardener writes as follows:

The Appliance of Science (in a greenhouse on a wet Wednesday!)

Sheltering from the rain in a customer’s greenhouse recently, I started to think how much easier it is to grow plants when you have a little bit of the background horticultural science.

Horticultural science covers many aspects – chemistry, biology and climatology as well as the more applied science subjects such as the naming of plants, the growing material we plant into, the external shape (the size and shapes of leaves, fruits and flowers) and internal make-up (purpose of roots and shoots and how they work) and plant pathology (identifying pests, diseases and disorders)
All this is background knowledge which can help us when growing our plants.


If we know some science we can optimise the growth of our humble tomato in its greenhouse. For example we should be able to able to identify if the curling leaves are due to over watering, under watering, some viral disease or something else completely. Because of ‘nomenclature’ or plant naming we know that the tomato is in the same family as the potato, so are those leaf spots due to potato blight, a mineral deficiency or sun scorch?

I needed to do some more “digging” to find evidence and a remedy.

While we could use the large resources of text books and the internet available to us to help identify the issue, my experience of the customer and the growing conditions leads me to thinking that it is a ‘transpiration’ issue.

Transpiration involves the movement of water from the soil into root hairs, then into the xylem where it is transported through the plant stems and leaves (a small amount is used for growth) and then lost via the ‘stomata’.  This process keeps the plant upright, otherwise it ‘wilts’.  In hot sunny conditions the plant transpires much more than early or later in the year with cooler nights and shorter days.

Earlier in the year, when the tomato leaves started to curl, I had suggested the customer give them extra water but the weather had been hot and sunny so now nearly three months later with lower light levels and temperatures the plants are using less water but the plants were still receiving twice daily watering.

Helping the customer to understand how plants use water and the effect of the weather will help them to judge the correct amount of water to give each day. Result – a healthy stronger and more productive plant and less water consumption.  Science backs-up horticultural practice making it one more important “tool” for us to use.

Eventually by instinct we can say more confidently that a) rather b) is correct but in the meantime science answers the ‘why’ until we gain that confidence.

As horticultural students (and the wonderful thing about gardening is that however long we have been growing we are still students!) we find that by keeping an open mind and always questioning not only makes us better gardeners  but keeps our mind active!

Rob Cotterill Mhort (RHS) MCIHort

Editors note  Thanks Rob, your thoughtful editorial gives encouragement to gardeners and students alike to think about what’s happening in horticulture while we are digging and planting and this helps us build up our own expertise.

Richard Moore is the Young Horticulturalist of the Year 2019

12 MAY 2019

It began in January with thousands of entrants from across the UK and Ireland each competing for the title Young Horticulturalist of the Year and the £2500 Percy Thrower Travel bursary. After heats and regional finals, the final eight met at Kew to decide the overall winner. Several nail biting and close rounds ensured and by the end Richard Moore (image left) & Emily Marston (image middle) were tied for first place. Following two tie breakers the same result! Only after the third tie breaker did Richard win. In addition to the travel bursary,

Normally 2nd place wins a prize of £950 but this year Andrew Cross, Chairman of the Shropshire Horticultural Society, the competition’s main sponsor announced that they would also give Emily, a Horticultural Apprentice at RHS Harlow Carr, a £2000 travel bursary! Life changing horticultural travel for both Richard and Emily.

3rd place goes to Sally Newbrook (image right), a Horticulturalist from RHS Garden Rosemoor, who wins £550.

The rest of the finalists each win £200:

Ben Clansey – Horticulturalist at Royal Oak Landscape Design

Owen Harlow – Horticulturalist at The National Trust for Scotland

Mark Matthews – Professional Gardeners Guild trainee at The National Botanic Garden of Wales

Frances Porter – Professional Gardens Guild trainee at Waddesdon Manor

Leo Walsh – Horticulturalist at Universal Floral

Each of the finalists is also awarded membership to the Chartered Institute of Horticulture and PlantNetwork.

We are indebted to all our sponsors; our major sponsors are the Shropshire Horticultural Society who provide the Percy Thrower Travel Bursary and Bord Bia who sponsor all Ireland’s heats and regional finals. We also generous regional sponsors supporting our heats and regional finals.  They include Bulldog Tools, Caulders Garden Centres, Cherry Lane Garden Centres, Harrogate Flower Shows, PlantNetwork and Stockbridge Technology Centre.

Timothy Miles wins Young Horticulturist of the year

1 May 2018, by Matthew Appleby

Sissinghurst gardener and graduate of Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, Timothy Miles was named Chartered Institute of Horticulture Young Horticulturist of the Year 2018 at the grand final held at the Harrogate Spring Flower Show on April 28.

Miles, who graduated from Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh in 2017, received the £2,500 Travel Bursary provided by the Percy Thrower Trust. He will be able to use it to further his horticultural career anywhere in the world.

Finalists at the Grand Final were:- Scotland – Owen Harlow, Ireland – Leo Walsh, Northern – Emily Marston, North West and North Wales – Frances Porter, West Midlands and South Wales – Josh Egan Wyer, Eastern – Rosie Innes Taylor, South East – Timothy Miles, South West – Sally Newbrook.

Marston, an apprentice at RHS Harlow Carr who is in her first year at Craven College was runner up and Porter, studying for a level 3 diploma at Derby College’s Broomfield Hall was third. Martin Fish was quizmaster at the 28th annual event.

Chartered Institute of Horticulture president Owen Doyle said: “The Chartered Institute of Horticulture’s Young Horticulturist of the Year Competition is our flagship event which engages students and young horticulturists across both Great Britain and Ireland.

“This is an exciting and fantastic opportunity for them to display their plant knowledge and to meet fellow horticulturists during the local, regional and national parts of the competition.

“Thanks to our generous sponsors the winners at a local and regional level receive prizes and those that reach the Grand Final also receive great prizes. I wish the best of good fortune to all those taking part in the Grand Final.”

The 2017 Young Horticulturist of the Year is Scotland’s Lachlan Rae

This Young Horticulturist of the Year competition came to an exciting end on May 6th at University Centre Shrewsbury 2017 where the final 8 competitors fought for the opportunity to travel anywhere in the world with a £2,500 bursary. The bursary is provided in honour of Percy Thrower, Britain’s first celebrity gardener, known for his work with the BBC on Gardeners world and Blue Peter. This year’s competition received over 2,500 entries from young horticulturists under the age of 30 from all over the UK and Ireland.

Grow Yourself  a  Career in Horticulture 

Raoul Curtis-Machin writing as the then current Chair of Grow Careers at the Chartered Institute of Horticulture

Raoul Curtis-Machingrow logoHe is keen to encourage youngsters to take steps to begin what could well become a very rewarding career in horticulture and writes that seeing science in action is one way of capturing their interest.

“Gardening offers an easy and fascinating way to see science in action, and you can learn a lot by doing some of the simplest garden tasks. Watching the changing colours of autumn leaves (before clearing them up of course) shows you what happens when the tree stops circulating chlorophyll through its vessels and the normally green leaves turn all sorts of wonderful warm and fiery shades. It’s the chlorophyll which enables photosynthesis which ultimately feeds the plant and the food chain. Gardening fuses science and art: the beauty, colour and recreation we get from our gardens are all underpinned by understanding and skilfully manipulating scientific processes.”

As the current Chair of GrowCareers I should like to offer our support for your website and wish you luck with its establishment.

Institute statement on Young Horticulturist of the year  2016

Winner 2016 is Lawrence Wright from South east branch ,a student at RHS Garden  Wisley

Speaking after the event a surprised but delighted Lawrence said he was still coming to terms with the win .”Its not sunk in yet .At one point it got really close. Then when i heard i’d won it was disbelief and then excitement”

PRES A GILL President Andrew Gill said “They are all winners today. We hope that they all continue to work and do well in Horticulture and become Chartered members of the Chartered Institute of Horticulture .I’d like to thank all the competitors for their bravery and knowledge “

Winner 2015  Jessica Evans

The Young Horticulturist of the Year Competition is more important than ever to the Institute and horticulture in general, as we encourage and develop the horticultural professionals of tomorrow, tapping into the current popularity of growing plants;  there is no more satisfying job.  Andrew Gill C Hort FCIHort Past President,Chartered Institute of Horticulture


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