A student horticulturist has been given the opportunity to hone his skills in the historic gardens at Kelmarsh Hall thanks to the award of a RHS bursary.
Kelmarsh Hall was able to offer a year-long traineeship after receiving a grant from the RHS Susan Pearson Bursary Fund, which was set up to allow trainee horticulturists to undertake a programme of practical work experience in a public garden.
The position was offered to 20-year-old Sam Baillie, from Daventry, who is looking forward to learning more of the trade from Kelmarsh Hall’s Head Gardener Josh Coyne and Kelmarsh Trustee Richard Flenley, a semi-retired landscape consultant who has worked at a number of significant properties including Hampton Court Palace. Sam will gain hands-on experience in all aspects of the maintenance and development of the Grade II* listed gardens, before completing a formal project once the traineeship comes to an end.
Sam’s career path could have taken a completely different route, as he was initially studying travel and tourism at college. He said: “I used to garden with my dad when I was younger and then when I was a teenager, I started gardening to earn a bit of money. From there, my passion for the subject grew.”
It was his growing enthusiasm for gardening that led Sam to change courses and study for BTEC level 3 in horticulture. He then took a year out to further develop his skills in a local manor garden. Sam says he has self-learnt most of what he knows from reading books alongside his practical work.
When the traineeship opportunity arose at Kelmarsh Hall, it was the perfect opportunity for Sam to progress his career. He said: “It is a chance to hone my skills in a wonderful garden in a historic setting, working alongside a good team. Previously, I have mostly worked on my own so it will be good to develop my skills alongside people who are more experienced gardeners.”
Sam has already been busy learning the history of the Kelmarsh gardens, which were laid out by three important figures in 20th century garden design - Sir Geoffrey Jellicoe, Norah Lindsay and Nancy Lancaster of Colefax and Fowler. Sam said: “In this industry, you never stop learning because you can never know it all. It’s very intellectually stimulating – I think some people tend to think of a career in gardening as just mowing lawns and maintenance but there’s so much more to it and so many possibilities. I’m more of a plantsman and am interested in soil science and plant identification. I would like to study for an RHS qualification and would love a position of head gardener in the future.”