THE Birmingham Botanical Gardens, the historic, heritage attraction and independent educational charity near the city centre, has taken on two trainee gardeners as it commits to teaching the next generation of horticulturalists.
Lewis Belcher, aged 26 from Kings Norton, and 32-year-old Cat Watton, from Stirchley, have each been given the opportunity to enjoy a 12-month traineeship at the charity in Westbourne Road, which has 15 acres of grounds, four historic glasshouses and more than 7,000 species of plants – one of the most diverse collections in the Midlands.
Cat gained her traineeship through the WRAG Scheme (Work and Retrain As a Gardener Scheme), which provides paid, part-time, practical horticultural training for 12 months, while Lewis’s traineeship is via the Historic and Botanic Garden Traineeship Scheme (HBGTP), which offers salaried and fully-funded one-year placements for trainees.
Lewis began his scheme last year, but it has since been extended for 12 months, thanks to the generous support of the HBGTP traineeship because of the pandemic, which led to nationwide closures of attractions.
“I was studying and volunteering on-site and when I saw the opportunity of a traineeship arose, I realised I had to go there.
“After a bit of research online, I soon realised that that was exactly the sort of scheme I was interested in doing. At the beginning, I was a bit scared because of the competition in the interview process, but when I finally got the placement I was over the moon.
“I need to get more experience as possible working with different colleagues and in different gardens. I hope I’ll eventually get into a senior position in horticulture, so having the opportunity to teach and manage a team.”
Cat, who is a trained landscape architect who has decided to move into the world of horticulture, said she recognised that she had the rare opportunity to gain a placement in a garden that offers such a botanical and horticultural variety.
“It’s great to be immersed in a place with so much history and tradition. I was really lucky to find a placement in Birmingham and the level of variety at the Birmingham Botanical Gardens really makes me willing to work and study very hard.”
Wayne Williams, head gardener at the Birmingham Botanical Gardens, said:
“It’s really important for us to attract new horticultural talent as we strive to maintain and improve these 188-year-old gardens. We have an incredibly experienced, yet small team of gardeners here and we’re all keen to help our trainees learn new skills so that they can thrive in their chosen career path. We’re excited that Cat and Lewis are working with us.”