Garden Trainee

Organisation: The National Trust for Scotland

Salary: £22,672 pro-rata, per annum

Location: Threave Estate


The Garden Trainee role at Threave Garden will provide the post-holders with development in a broad range of work-based practical horticultural skills over the course of a year spent as part of the team there. The training will be based primarily around the content of the RHS Level 2 Certificate in Practical Horticulture, but additional enhancements will also be available. Our aim is to take people who have undertaken a horticultural apprenticeship, an academic horticultural qualification or who have proven practical gardening experience and to develop them further into the rounded skilled, craft professional gardeners that the heritage garden sector, including the National Trust for Scotland, requires.


The year at Threave comprises paid day-to-day work in the garden alongside practical training and assessments of the skills learnt. The RHS Level 2 training is supplemented by several assessed assignments designed to enhance trainee learning. This includes fortnightly plant identification tests, keeping a diary, completing plant profiles and participation in a study tour (visiting a number of gardens and nurseries to gain a greater appreciation of the variety a career in horticulture can provide) from which a report is requested.

The Garden Trainees are overseen by our teaching staff of Gardener Instructors, seasoned experts in their fields who have worked in a wide range of gardens themselves. Each Instructor is responsible for a different area of the garden: the grounds (lawns, hedges, herbaceous borders, woody plants, alpines, hard landscapes, aquatic, and bog), the walled garden and the glasshouses. The Garden Trainee will work in each of these areas, moving between them on a rota basis, to ensure in-depth training across the seasons. Trainees will work alongside the Gardener Instructors, other garden staff and volunteers, receiving hands-on practical tuition. Study and assignments will be completed largely in their own time.


While in the garden the Garden Trainee will be formally line managed by the Head Gardener and will be expected to take direction from any member of staff they are allocated to work alongside or for. The employment is for a fixed period of 1 year, subject to continued progression on the course with acceptable practical performance.
Trainees will be expected to take responsibility for their learning which will include out of hours study and/or project work.


The School of Heritage Gardening, based at Threave Garden was formed in 1960, shortly after the National Trust for Scotland took ownership of the property. For over 60 years we have been teaching horticultural skills and techniques to aspiring professional gardeners. Former trainees have gone on to have successful careers in the industry, many choosing to stay with the Trust.

Threave Garden is perfectly suited for a range of training requirements, having been created over the years by students, for students, to accommodate a variety of horticultural situations. The garden has a large and diverse plant collection set within an extensive landscape and includes features such as a rock garden, fruit and vegetables, ponds, naturalised bulbs, woodland, orchard, nursery, lawns, herbaceous beds and borders and glasshouses. This purposefully broad array of garden landscapes, plants and features ensures that trainees are able to receive an extensive and well-rounded education, covering many aspects found in a career in horticulture.

Threave is an approved centre to deliver Royal Horticultural Society qualifications, one of only a handful across Scotland.


This is a development role intended to take the Garden Trainee to competent professional gardener level for the heritage garden sector through the vehicle of RHS Level 2 Certificate in Practical Horticulture. A horticultural apprenticeship at SVQ Level 2 or equivalent is preferred as a minimum, however places are also open to those with higher or academic horticultural qualifications or who have proven practical gardening experience. Prior achievement at SCQF Level 5 or above is required to underpin learning, as is a relevant level of computer literacy and ability to produce well-prepared diaries or reports and to communicate clearly with colleagues and visitors. Proof of the right to work in the UK is required.

In addition, we are looking for the following:

• Able to follow clear instructions competently
• Willing to work outside in all weathers and undertake physically demanding tasks
• Prior knowledge of relevant Health and Safety procedures would be useful, as would prior experience of horticultural machinery
• Able to use tools and equipment as required for the role
• Good people skills enabling strong relationships both externally and internally, to be built and maintained
• Enthusiasm for horticulture and commitment to completing the training year
• Able to work flexibly as part of a team
• Commitments to our customer service standards – our gardens are open to the public almost every day!


The Garden Trainee
• will work as part of the garden team increasing their knowledge and experience of duties such as soil cultivation, weeding, establishing and maintaining plants and displays, propagation, turf care, using tools equipment and machinery, and much more
• will take responsibility for their learning which will include significant out of hours study and/or project work
• will be required to meet regularly with Trust staff for assessment or to discuss progress
• will take part in additional training offered by the Trust

The Garden Trainee
• will be based in Threave Garden but may be given opportunities to visit or work in other Trust gardens
• will work 5 days out of any 7, which may include weekends and evenings helping with events and other activities
• may, as confidence and skills develop over time, guide less-experienced volunteers or other Garden Trainees or Garden Apprentices
• will work closely with rest of the property team, and the area Gardens & Designed Landscapes Manager
• will be expected to interact daily with other staff, volunteers and visitors and may be asked to meet donors who are supporting the Trust with finance
• is not a budget holder but will be responsible for submitting any expense claims in good time and in line with allowances

The Purpose, Context, Key Responsibilities, and Person Specification reflect the requirements of the job at the time of issue. The Trust reserves the right to amend these with appropriate consultation and/or request the post-holder to undertake any activities that it believes to be reasonable within the broad scope of the job or his/her general abilities.

Application Deadline: Friday 28/04/2023