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pro landscaper magazine

An apprentice’s journey from retail to horticulture

by | 16 May 24 | Commercial Landscaping, Long Reads

Katie’s career path is a testament to the transformative power of following one’s passion. Initially carving a path in the retail sector, including a significant role as an assistant manager at a Laura
Ashley store, Katie’s career took a meaningful turn after her daughter was born.

Seeking a change, she found herself drawn to the green embrace of horticulture—a field that resonated with her childhood memories of gardening and vegetable growing, inspired by her parents.

An opportunity presented itself at Stowe, where a friend’s recommendation led to a part-time assistant manager role, eventually guiding her to the garden department, marking the beginning of her horticultural voyage.


Embarking on an apprenticeship


Katie’s decision to pursue an apprenticeship with the National Trust in horticulture at the historic gardens at Stowe was influenced by the desire for a balanced learning experience covering both a range of practical

An apprentice’s journey from retail to horticulture

Katie on site at Stowe.

skills at Stowe and learning at Plumpton College that would allow her to earn while honing her skills.

Anna Tolfree is Katie’s line manager at Stowe. She is the senior gardener at Stowe and was the person who gave Katie the most guidance during her apprenticeship.

Katie chose an apprenticeship over other educational routes for its flexibility and practical benefits. This journey not only equipped her with valuable knowledge but also forged strong friendships among fellow apprentices and enriched her job with hands-on practice.

Katie is one of the first apprentices in England who has successfully achieved the revised Horticulture or Landscape Construction Operative Level 2 v1.1 apprenticeship, completing her End Point Assessment through Lantra, as an End Point Assessment Organisation for the land-based sector.


Sustainability champion and aspirations


As a sustainability champion, Katie is keenly aware of the future, especially in the context of climate change. Her role involves meticulous planning of gardening tasks with a team of dedicated volunteers, underscoring her leadership and commitment to environmental stewardship.

With ambitions to ascend the horticultural career ladder, Katie has now progressed from assistant to gardener role at Stowe. Her next career step would be to Senior Gardener, and she may in the future undertake further educational advancements to enable her to progress.
At the moment she explains how she loves horticulture and that she is very keen on nurturing the next generation of apprentices at Stowe.

National Trust Stowe is currently applying for funding for this with her name on the application as mentor. This is a powerful message of how important it is to develop the next generation of gardeners to support the needs of gardens, both public and private across the United Kingdom.


A profile in resilience and growth


Katie’s narrative is a powerful illustration of how career transitions, fuelled by passion and resilience, can lead to fulfilling and impactful work. Her journey from the fast-paced and competitive retail sector to the nurturing grounds of horticulture reflects a deep-seated commitment to personal and professional development.

Through her apprenticeship, Katie has not only advanced her expertise but also become a beacon of sustainability, advocating for a greener future. Her story is a compelling showcase of the benefits of apprenticeships in horticulture, highlighting the blend of practical learning, career advancement, and the joy of working close to nature.

Written by lead assessor at Lantra for horticulture apprenticeships.

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