Head Gardener

Organisation: The National Trust for Scotland

Salary: £28,644 - £31,523 pro-rata, per annum

Location: Branklyn Gardens

The National Trust for Scotland was left Branklyn house and garden by the late John and Dorothy Renton in 1967. The Rentons, on acquiring the ground in 1922 from the neighbouring Orchardbank Nursery, built themselves a house in contemporary style and created a garden that became well known for its Sino Himalayan plant collection. The property, situated approximately 2km from Perth city centre, covers an area of 0.684ha. The garden is included in the Inventory of Gardens and Designed Landscapes in Scotland, and holds four National Collections of Cassiope, Lilies, Meconopsis and Rhododendron subsection Taliense.

The property consists of the house, garden, holiday cottage, tearoom, a small shop and the car park and attracts over 17,000 visitors annually, many of whom have a specialist interest in aspects of the horticultural collection.
Branklyn Garden, situated on Kinnoull Hill to the south of Perth, is very different to other gardens in the Trust’s portfolio in terms of size and scale. Described recently as being ‘…much more like an ordinary garden – although fascinatingly supercharged in its quality’, it is small and intimate with an extensive collection of predominantly Sino Himalayan plants and trees. Almost every available space is used, creating layer upon layer of interest, colour and detail, coming together to form a small botanical garden. This collection, begun by Dorothy and John Renton and continued by the Trust, is of exceptional horticultural significance and aesthetic appeal and has made Branklyn Garden a ‘plantsman’s paradise’. The garden and the detailed archive of seed lists and planting records kept by the Rentons and then continued by the Trust, is also an outstanding historical and educational record and resource.


To manage, maintain and develop the garden at Branklyn in line with the Trust’s policies, priorities, performance standards and targets to ensure its ongoing conservation, that enjoyment of the property by visitors and members is maximised and commercial, financial and development objectives are achieved.

Along with the Visitor Services Manager, the Head Gardener of a Trust property is our local representative, building trust and confidence in our organisation and its objectives through sound management and delivery across a wide spectrum of activities. You can expect to be “hands-on” dealing with operational issues on-site, working weekends on a rota basis during the season as well as investigating and planning for initiatives and developments that help keep the Trust at the forefront of conservation, and a leader in visitor/heritage management.

The Head Gardener will be expected to raise the profile of Branklyn Garden to generate more visitors; work with the local community and specialist interest groups to increase fundraising opportunities and develop proposals to increase the opportunities of more in-house specialist plants for sale.


The post holder will have accountability for:
 Staff management: leading the garden staff team and volunteers, maintaining the daily operations associated with maximising visitor enjoyment both in the high season, March to October and where appropriate at other times;
 Practical horticulture: including managing trees and shrubs, herbaceous and bog plants, half-hardies, annuals and bulbs; turf care; pest/disease/weed control, composting and soil improvement; hard-landscaping and path care; alpine house and cold frame care, plant propagation and biosecurity; plant sales management;
 Plantsmanship: the identification, knowledge and understanding of this unique plant collection, including recording (using Iris BG database), tagging, labeling, assessment and management of individual plants and recognised collections including the Plant Heritage National Collection as well as the important collections of Galanthus, Autumn Gentians, Roscoea and Lilium with appropriate acquisition and deaccessioning, annual reporting;
 On site Health & Safety: ensuring compliance with the Trust’s health, safety, and environment policies and procedures. This will include recording regular path, step, seat, structure and tree inspections and taking appropriate remedial action. You will be responsible for all health, safety and environmental management of the garden, closure in the event of extreme weather or incident, accident and near miss report and investigation, with the support and guidance of the Trusts Safety, Health and Environment Team.
 Membership sales: meeting the membership sales target for the property, and ensuring that staff are fully trained and equipped to recruit Trust members effectively, and to promote and encourage membership.

Responsibilities will include:
 On a regular basis, supervising and working with other staff, volunteers and/or students to ensure they deliver required outputs at the appropriate standard, and gain benefit/satisfaction from their activities
 Set daily, weekly, yearly and longer-term operational work plans for the gardens and bring forward opportunities for visitor engagement e.g workshops and events.
 Work to the Trust’s Environmental Policy with respect to sustainable gardening activities, including energy, water, peat and pesticide use.
 Maintain Branklyn Gardens car park, machinery, equipment, materials and all other resources. Ensuring timely and appropriate repairs, purchases and servicing, and its use e.g. training, risk assessments and HAVS logs.
 Alongside and in the absence of the Visitor Service Manager, Maintain 24hr fire and intruder alarm cover at Visitor Centre and stand-alone units in General Purpose shed, ensure regular testing and maintenance, repairs as required.
 Fostering positive relationships with local communities, promoting the work of the Trust, and actively seeking opportunities to increase Trust membership and volunteer engagement; B&Bs and hotels, local newspapers, local radio, the Scottish Rock Garden Club, the Scottish Rhododendron Society, the Meconopsis Group, Discovering Scottish Gardens group, Scotland’s Gardens (Scheme); Royal Horticultural Society Partner Garden scheme, etc.
 Reporting in the context of the properties’ statements of significance and annual operating plans (and contribution to these action plans) to ensure that activities are prioritised and planned to optimise the use of resources.
 On occasion, contributing to the review and development of property action plans and operational workplans for the garden.
 Ensure that customer service and care from volunteers, and in the broader sense of facilities and “visiting experience” is delivered to a high standard to ensure that the property’s reputation for excellence is maintained and enhanced.
 Act as point of contact for both the garden and the wider estate – this might include welcoming visitors, small groups, Travel Trade, contractors or Trust visits.
 Contribute to the interpretation and development of events, projects, literature, signage, talks, demonstrations and workshops, garden trails, digital media and contribution to guidebooks or leaflets and social media.
 Administration which enables gardening activities to be undertaken and recorded efficiently; including awareness and understanding of budgets, supporting the other management staff in managing a budget for the gardens and estate.
 Research and develop historical precendents and practical contemporary solutions to inform proposed activities and projects; support to the planning, design and implementation of restoration and/or development projects.
 Seek advice and guidance from Garden and Designs Landscape Manager as appropriate.
 Act as a first aider as and when necessary.

This role is one for which the duties/responsibilities/accountabilities of the role require the post holder to become a member of the Protection of Vulnerable Groups (PVG) scheme, which replaces the ‘Enhanced Disclosure’ check and is administered by Disclosure Scotland.

Application Deadline: Friday 16/12/2022