Snapshot: Chris Howell

Chris Howell spent over two decades in the retail industry before changing careers and studying for a Level 2 Diploma in Horticulture. He is now completing 75 hours of work experience here at Winterbourne before graduating in June. We asked him to tell us what he has learnt so far and share some pictures of the garden that he’s snapped along the way.

The Walled Garden, photograph by Chris Howell, Winterbourne House and Garden, Digging for Dirt

The Walled Garden, photograph by Chris Howell

“Since a very early age I’ve been an avid gardener. My family are all keen gardeners, in particular my Grandfather, who was a member of a number of plant societies and used to show spectacular Fuchsias. In 2017 I had the opportunity to take redundancy so I decided to take the plunge and pursue a career in horticulture.”

Rhododendron praecox, photograph by Chris Howell, Winterbourne House and Garden, Digging for Dirt

Rhododendron praecox, photograph by Chris Howell

“My greatest passion is plants and propagation. I’ve always been amazed how anyone can just push a stick or some seeds into soil and they’ll grow into something beautiful. However, during the course I’ve found my focus constantly changing with each new subject I’ve learned. I think now I’d probably like to find a job somewhere with a wider variety of tasks.”

The Herb Circle, photograph by Chris Howell, Winterbourne House Garden, Digging for Dirt

The Herb Circle, photograph by Chris Howell

“No matter what branch of horticulture I move into I’ll still be dealing with customers, whether I’m designing gardens, cutting hedges or producing plants. Retail has taught me the importance of deadlines and time management. Oh and it’s also taught me that the customer is always…. always right.”

Fritillaria michailovskyi, photograph by Chris Howell, Winterbourne House and Garden, Digging for Dirt

Fritillaria michailovskyi, photograph by Chris Howell

“If I was to offer advice to somebody considering a career in horticulture it would be – it’s not a walk in the park (excuse the pun). Horticulture is hard work but rewarding. There’s a well known Confucius quote, “Choose a job you love and you will never work a day in your life”, though I may not seem so cheerfully philosophical when riddling half a tonne of poor quality leaf mould!”

The Alpine House, photograph by Chris Howell, Winterbourne House and Garden, Digging for Dirt

The Alpine House, photograph by Chris Howell

“I’ve also spent a lot of time volunteering at the Birmingham Botanical Gardens and Glasshouses and I’ll be staying on to do some volunteering at Winterbourne. Working with other gardeners is invaluable. I ask lots of questions, it’s important to tap into that experience. Just reminiscing with them about things which went well and things which could be done better can really help in your future career.”

Agave victoriae-reginae, photograph by Chris Howell, Winterbourne House and Garden, Digging for Dirt

Agave victoriae-reginae, photograph by Chris Howell

“The most memorable plant I’ve photographed at Winterbourne has to be the Agave victoriaereginae inside the house. It’s huge! What’s really caught my eye though are the glasshouses, they’re so well maintained, the Alpine House in particular. I’ve taken many pictures in there as there’s always something new to see. My least enjoyable moments have all been due to badger damage on the lawns. It’s been such hard work shifting barrows of turf and topsoil!”

Badger damage on the Top Lawn, photograph by Chris Howell, Winterbourne House and Garden, Digging for Dirt

Badger damage on the Top Lawn, photograph by Chris Howell

“The most useful thing I’ll take away from Winterbourne is the appreciation of specimen plants. In order to have such a great collection you have to appreciate that some areas of the garden might not look at their best at all times, this goes for all botanical gardens.  This said, there’s never much of Winterbourne which is not at its best!”

Winterbourne House, photograph by Chris Howell, Winterbourne House and Garden, Digging for Dirt

Winterbourne House, photograph by Chris Howell

You can continue to follow Chris’s journey into horticulture on Twitter @christophhowell or learn more about volunteer opportunities at Winterbourne by clicking here.

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9 Thoughts on Snapshot: Chris Howell

    • Daniel Cartwright

      Reply

      Hello Marian. Thanks for stopping by and commenting. It is nice for us to have the chance to celebrate our volunteer team – they are a hard working bunch! Glad you enjoyed it.

  1. Jennifer Christie

    Reply

    Great photos, Chris. And wishing you all the very best for your new future in the plant world. Someone will be lucky to employ you. ?

  2. Angela Wilson

    Reply

    do it, if you are thinking about changing careers and this is something you think you will like, you will, so just make the decision now and do it, in fact go and write your letter of resignation now and apply for the course and open yourself up to a world of wonder and opportunity

  3. Sally wicks

    Reply

    I really enjoyed Chris’s blog, both words and images. I also changed careers to horticulture, it really was my best career decision. I cannot imagine any better way to earn my living. Being outside with the seasons, year in and year out, it is good for the soul.

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