Trainee Gardener

Organisation: The National Trust for Scotland

Salary: £21,260 pro-rata, per annum

Location: Inverewe

This is a development role of 12 months’ duration and is part-funded by the Stanley Smith (UK) Horticultural Trust. The successful candidate will benefit from an individualised programme which incorporates practical horticultural experience through the different areas of the garden (woodland, walled garden, glasshouse and collections), working alongside experienced team members. In addition, and the unique attraction of the role, there is to be a specific focus on participation in an ongoing project which aims to restore the soil health of the shelterbelt and woodland.


In addition to providing practical horticultural experience across the different areas of the garden, this role will have a specific focus on participation, for 1-2 days each week across the 12 months, in our ongoing project which aims to restore the soil health of the shelterbelt and woodland in particular. This project embraces:
• control of non-native invasives, including but not only Rhododendron ponticum
• converting the material from the cleared non-native invasives into biochar, using a specialised, low-pollution retort
• integrating the biochar into the garden’s experimental composting processes
• with the support of the team, establishing a scientific evaluation process to assess the impact of the various soil improvement techniques on plant and soil health. (The technical knowledge needed to monitor selected garden plants, keep records of plant growth rates and plant health, and test the microbiology of comparative soil samples will be taught by experienced staff.) There is an allowance for associated equipment, such as microscope, camera and laptop
• with guidance, presenting a high-quality analytical report on the outcomes of the research project
• delivering other formal outcomes (articles, blogs, presentations) which allow the research to be shared with professional and general audiences and contribute to professional discussions.

The Head Gardener at Inverewe has extensive, long-term experience in, and a commitment to, managing and supporting trainee gardeners, having run our own schemes for many years and participated in the broader NTS Garden Apprenticeship programme. Day-to-day supervision is the responsibility of the experienced team members who give feedback on learning and performance. Plant identification study, regular internal tests, practical workshops, training with hand and power tools and tractor-driving are all part of our established programme to support the development of horticultural expertise. All garden staff maintain daily diary records. There may also be opportunity to undertake placements at other NTS gardens, as appropriate to needs and interest.


Inverewe is a garden of outstanding horticultural importance, recognised internationally for its extensive plant collections. Created by Osgood Mackenzie in the late 19th century, it has been in NTS ownership since 1952. In a challenging northern landscape of spectacular mountain and coast, exotic plants flourish owing to the benefits of the North Atlantic Drift and the protection of shelter planting established from the 1860s on the barren, wind-swept land. The planting has always been pioneering and ‘pushes the boundaries’, thanks to the skills and commitment of its gardeners through the years.

Inverewe’s 25 hectare garden has many components, including long drive beds filled with shrubs and herbaceous plants, open lawns, a shore-side rock garden, extensive woodland with ponds, and a working walled garden where heritage fruit, vegetables and flowers flourish. A state-of-the-art greenhouse was opened in 2016. The current National Collections held at Inverewe are of Rhododendron subsections barbata, glishcra and maculifera, Olearia and Aeonium.


The employment is for a fixed-term period of 12 months, subject to acceptable performance in the diverse aspects of the placement. While in the garden the trainee will be formally line managed by the Head Gardener but will be directed by experienced members of the garden team on a managed rota. The trainee will be expected to undertake individual learning which will include out of hours study and activities to deliver the project outcomes specific to the role.


This is a development role intended to extend the practical experience of a qualified horticulturist through the hands-on experience of maintaining a world-famous heritage garden and its plant collection, with a unique opportunity to learn more about soil health and sustainability. It would be particularly suited to a recently qualified individual who already has some practical experience.

A horticultural qualification at minimum SVQ Level 2 or RHS level 2 or equivalent is required, as is a relevant level of computer literacy and the ability to produce well-prepared diaries, reports or presentations 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 a colleague who is
• willing to work outside in all weathers and undertake physically demanding tasks
• cognisant of and able to follow relevant Health and Safety procedures
• competent in the use of tools and equipment as required for the role
• experienced in the use of at least some relevant horticultural machinery
• good with people, both colleagues and the general public
• enthusiastic for horticulture and committed to the profession
• able to work flexibly both as part of a team and independently
• committed to NTS customer service standards – our garden is open to the public almost every day!


The trainee
• will work as part of the garden team increasing 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 individual learning which will include 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 Inverewe 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 volunteers or other garden trainees or apprentices
• will work closely with rest of the garden team
• will interact daily with other property staff, volunteers and visitors
• is not a budget holder but will be responsible for submitting any expense claims in good time and in line with allowances.

Application Deadline: Friday 09/12/2022