Down the Garden Path to a New Career; PASTURES NEW: Cut-Flower Harvesting,top, and, above, National Trust Gardeners at Knightshayes Court, Devon

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Byline: Charlie Dimmock

PEOPLE are always saying to me what a wonderful job I must have - andit's not just since I started presenting gardening programmes on TV. It was thesame when I used to work at a water garden centre, and many other people inhorticulture receive similar comments from friends with desk jobs.

Well, they're right. It's a great life, being outdoors, meeting people andworking with plants. It's a career that attracts not only school-leavers -plenty of people changing jobs in mid-life are moving into horticulture, too.

There are numerous courses you can take, covering everything from garden designto arboriculture (the cultivation of trees and shrubs). There areenvironmentally based courses and ones involving conservation.

Others specialise in subjects such as sports grounds or historic gardens.

And you don't have to set aside between one and three years for full-timestudy, as I did. Most people need to keep earning while they learn and go onintensive two-week courses on specialist subjects in their annual holidays orenrol at P in their annual holidays or enrol at evening classes.

To identify the course that will suit you best, talk to the careers adviser atyour college and ask people who employ horticulturists what sort ofqualifications they look for in job candidates. Check out, too, the Instituteof Horticulture website (www.horticulture.org.uk) which lists the coursesavailable and contains a lot of other useful information.

But before committing yourself to the time and expense of a course, take a goodlook at all the different sorts of jobs there are in horticulture, so you headin the right direction.

Schools these days send kids out to see for themselves what different careersare like. I had a schoolgirl 'shadowing' me for two weeks recently.

She wasn't into gardening but wanted to go into TV and the media, so I had herhelping me put together slide presentations and notes for talks and going withme to events.

However, after a few days of filming she was really put off the idea..

She hadn't realised how much hanging around there is, holding umbrellas overpiles of kit while it's tipping down with rain, or fetching and carrying. …