Ever wondered what it’s like to be a trainee gardener? Gardener Fumiko tells all about her time as a WRAGS trainee at Winterbourne.
2020 was a year of reflection.
2021 was a year of working and studying.
2022 turned out to be a year of many changes. So many changes!
Having spent the last sixteen years as a professional composer, pianist, and lecturer, I knew that I had come to a life juncture (still too young to be having a midlife crisis, thank you!). It was either going to be more of the same for the rest of my working life or time to do something new. Having been a frustrated scientist working as an artist for a long time, I knew that horticulture had it all. So, my journey to retrain as a gardener began.
WRAGS stands for ‘Work and Retrain as a Gardener Scheme’, which is a part-time traineeship run by the WFGA (Working for Gardeners Association). This has provided me with the perfect opportunity to experience what it is really like to be a gardener, whilst maintaining my teaching work.
Being a gardener at Winterbourne is not the same as gardening in your own garden. Since I started my placement in March 2022, I have worked in all weathers, in all different planting situations (Walled Garden, Alpine, Scree, Rock Garden etc.), and wielded many tools and machinery.
Wet gloves are not nice, but when you are still smiling after shifting ten tonnes of topsoil with a spade and wheelbarrow to prepare the Spring Lawn for resowing, you know it’s the real thing.
I have discovered that ride-on mower work is very relaxing – that using the pedestrian mower in the Walled Garden is a bit like machine sewing with a seam allowance – and that I really enjoy topiary work. I am happy to geek out about Massonia depressa and chat to visitors about what to do with kohlrabi. I’ve learned the importance of knowing how long a task will take and have got very quick at filling containers with compost.
Having had the opportunity to work full-time at Winterbourne since July and having completed my RHS Level 3 Diploma in September, I resigned from my old job. Four months on, I have no doubt that it was the right move for me, and I continue to be fascinated by all things plants. For anyone wishing to explore the world of horticulture as a career, there’s no better way to know if it will work for you than by doing it – no ifs, no buts, no coconuts!