Mid Sussex gardening scheme could change your life

Liddy Davidson trains gardeners such as Jim Pillows who is being trained at Sheffield Park Gardens. Pic Steve Robards SUS-150217-133439001
Liddy Davidson trains gardeners such as Jim Pillows who is being trained at Sheffield Park Gardens. Pic Steve Robards SUS-150217-133439001

Stunning gardens are commonplace in Mid Sussex, and a new scheme is encouraging those interested in gardening to learn some skills and drastically change their lifestyle for the better.

Work and Retrain As a Gardener Scheme (WRAGS) trains gardening fanatics of all abilities practical skills either in their own gardens or at existing gardens, including three in Lindfield.

WRAGS co-ordinator for Sussex and South Hants Liddy Davidson said trainees are ‘from a huge variety of backgrounds, most of whom are seeking a change of career which will improve their quality of life’.

“Getting out of an office and working out of doors, fitting in with family commitments, such as mums post babies, doing something they love, enhancing personal knowledge and skills,” she said.

Trainees learn how to create and maintain herbaceous borders, identification of plants and pests/diseases, planting and transplanting, growing fruit and veg, propagation, pruning, care of lawns and hedges, use of tools and health and safety.

Trainees spend two days a week for a year supervised in their placement garden. At the end of the scheme they are certified by the ‘well respected’ scheme.

“Most either go on to work for themselves as self employed gardeners or as a team member in a large garden,” Liddy said.

Others go on to Royal Horticultural Society (RHS), City & Guilds, or courses in garden design and more Women’s Farm and Garden Association (WFGA) workshops.

WRAGS trainees are involved horticultural careers such as head gardeners for the National Trust, owners of nurseries, therapeutic gardening and garden photography.

Gardens used in the scheme include large public gardens, National Trust gardens, private gardens open for the National Garden Scheme, an organic small holding, a prairie garden, a bed and breakfast and two castles.

Fees are currently £125 for garden owners and £400 for trainees

“It’s a win win situation as garden owners benefit from the help they receive from enthusiastic and committed trainees who range from novices to students on RHS or other horticultural courses.

“They in turn gain practical experience and confidence to enhance their own gardening and/or go on to various careers in horticulture,” Liddy added.

WRAGS uses three gardens in Lindfield including Kenwards Farm complete with its own arboretum, a woodland garden owned by a plantswoman at Copyhold Hollow in Haywards Heath, Knepp Castle’s walled garden in West Grinstead and Boundary Place in Warninglid.

The gardening scheme plans to expand to Borde Hill Gardens in Haywards Heath and Sussex Prairies.

The scheme is just one project offered by the UK charity, the WFGA, which was established in 1899 and set up the first Women’s Land Army in 1912.

WFGA members can also benefit from useful workshops and workdays, informative newsletters, garden tours, funding for further training, discounts on gardening accessories and seeds, a recruitment network and local members’ gatherings.

For more information about WFGA membership/WRAGS see www.wfga.org.uk, call the WFGA on 01285 658 339 or email local coordinator Liddywfga@gmail.com.