Non-Degree Professional Gardener Training Programs in North America

Mack, James
Journal Title
Journal ISSN
Volume Title
University of Delaware
The qualifications desired of gardeners have changed since the last survey of botanical gardens and arboreta in 1971 (Hodyss). The results of a survey that I administered of public institutions that employ gardeners revealed that a majority of administrators, supervisors, and gardeners believe that some skills which were important over a decade ago (i.e., turf establishment and maintenance, and plant propagation) are now less important; while others (i.e., handling and care of small power equipment and the identification, selection, and care of ornamental plants) have increased. From the standpoint of gardener training programs, however, a more important change has occurred in the interest public institutions are showing basic management skills for gardeners. Once solely the domain of supervisory personnel, skills like: communication with colleagues and the public, project organization and implementation, and time management are now desired, if not. required, by many institutions of the gardeners they currently employ, or will employ in the future. Gardeners that can supervise other gardeners and volunteers, coordinate basic plant installation projects, and give talks to interested visitors and local garden societies are now preferred by many public institutions over gardeners that do not have these professional skills. Non-degree granting professional gardener training programs provide students with practical field experience and classroom training in a wide range of horticultural areas. The programs that most effectively prepare gardeners for careers in public horticulture combine both horticultural training and basic management experiences. I have provided , as a portion of this document, an appendice which compares three such gardener training programs. Although the primary focus of my research is on gardener needs of public , not-for-profit institutions, many of my findings validly apply to private and commercial horticultural establishments, as well. This information is useful in writing job descriptions for gardeners, designing horticultural in-service training programs, and evaluating the abilities of staff gardeners. A useful training model, based upon the results of my survey, includes the following elements for professional gardener training programs: * better structuring of practical and in-class periods to take advantage of outdoor weather conducive for hands-on experience * mandatory oral and written communication assignments to encourage communication skills * a minimum of three years of training, with the third year concentrating on basic management issues to other horticultural institutions * student options f o r three-month internships * stipends and on-site housing for students.
Education - public gardens , Instruction , Professional Gardener Training , Non degree programs , Training