Head Gardener: Historical Gardens

Where They Work

Historical gardens are found in many settings ranging from the National Trust through institutions such as Colleges and Universities to large private estates.  These gardens bring with them a past, that can be inspiring and restricting in equal measure.

What They Do

The hard landscaping of these gardens can rarely be altered, reflecting the period in which the garden was first created.  The trees are often ancient and magnificent.  The head gardener has to be aware of the history of the garden and very sympathetic to the parts that cannot be altered.  However, the soft landscaping is often transitory and ephemeral with changes occurring every year as gardening fashions change.  This gives a head gardener the opportunity to make their mark on the landscape and the garden.

What is Needed

Head Gardeners were traditionally feared by their gardeners in the way that a regimental sergeant major is feared by their troops.  The position of head gardener was achieved after a very long period of apprenticeships, and years of being a journeyman, living in a bothy and moving on to a new estate every 6-months or so.  It was also common for sons to follow their fathers, and even grand-fathers, on big estates.  This is not how people become head gardeners today. Today you still need years of experience and talent but now there are also recognised formal and informal qualifications that sit alongside the practical experience needed to be a skilful and knowledgeable head gardener.

In addition to having a very wide horticultural knowledge, ranging from arboriculture to veg growing, the head gardener will be expected to be able to design borders and new features.  Many historical garden produce plants in semi-commercial nurseries to help raise funds for the gardens.  Furthermore, a head gardener will have to be a manager of the horticultural staff, with a flair for training the new young gardeners.  The ability to strip down a lawn mower would not go amiss.  Lastly, the head gardener will have to be an ambassador for the garden, giving guided tours and talks for gardening groups and clubs.


Head gardeners are sought after world-wide - if you establish a great reputation and apart from extremely sound horticultural skills and knowledge you also have great communication skills opportunities can exist for international posts in significant gardens.

The practical and theoretical knowledge you accumulate through a career in gardening and being recognised as a talented gardener can contribute towards you becoming a head gardener in time; becoming a head gardner is not a fast process even today.

Would you like to train as a horticulturalist? We can help. View our horticultural courses here.

Or please contact us with any questions. Or call 01384 442752.

Our horticultural tutors are all highly experienced and professional and are happy to help with any questions.

A good head gardener will always be in demand and held in high esteem.  It is one of the most varied and satisfying positions within in amenity horticulture.


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