Many of the best horticulturalists working in Britain’s gardens owe their success to training received on the Work and Retrain As a Gardener (WRAG) scheme.
Open to anyone wanting to start a career in gardening, it is the only horticultural scheme in the UK that offers practical training on a part-time basis.
Not only has the scheme improved the standard of horticultural training nationwide, but it has changed the lives of many trainees in the process.
Last year, WRAGs saw its 1,000th trainee complete her training.
This year it celebrates 25 years of matching aspiring horticulturalists with head gardeners or garden owners to gain the practical skills required for a gardening career.
To celebrate the 25th anniversary and to raise funds for its administrative body, the Women’s Farm and Garden Association (WFGA), East and West Sussex members had a stand on Saturday June 2 at the two day Floral Fringe Fair held on June 2 and 3.
The fair is held at Knepp castle, the private country home of Sir Charles and Lady Burrell.
Head gardener Helen Butler climbed the castle tower to take an aerial photo of WFGA members, friends and visitors to the fair forming a 25 to celebrate 25 years of WRAGS.
Knepp Castle has had WRAGS trainees for nearly three years and currently takes two trainees to work in the garden.
Lady Burrell said of the scheme: “It’s wonderful to have such enthusiastic WRAGS trainees in the garden.
“They learn all the various aspects of gardening we have at Knepp from pruning in the orchards, to vegetable growing, to propagating in the greenhouse to topiary.
“It’s a wonderful way to open up to all the possibilities of gardening and it’s great to be part of that path of setting people in a new direction, though we’re often sad to see them go.”
Current trainee Vicky Milligan said: “Working at Knepp Castle has enabled me to develop a range of valued horticultural skills and the confidence to make this my new career.
“The team and the setting have made this an ideal placement for a WRAGS trainee.”
More gardens suitable for training WRAGS trainees in East and West Sussex are currently needed.
If you are a garden owner or head gardener and would like to train an enthusiastic and hard-working future horticulturalist in your garden, go to www.wfga.org.uk for more details or contact the WRAGS regional manager for East & West Sussex, Rebecca Lloyd on Rebecca.firstname.lastname@example.org
Alternatively contact WFGA head office on email@example.com
The national celebration of the 25th anniversary was a summer garden party held in Waterperry Gardens, Oxfordshire on June 3 2018, during which WFGA Ambassador Christine Walkden hosted a gardeners’ questions event in the amphitheatre.
A raffle is also taking place (winners to be drawn on September 7 2018) with prizes including £1,000 in cash and a tour of Highgrove Gardens. For tickets, costing £1 each, go to raffleplayer.com/wfga
For more on Knepp castle visit www.kneppestate.co.uk