Lachlan Rae is a 24 year old Head Gardner based at Auchendolley Estate, Scotland, and is this year’s Young Horticulturist of the Year award winner. We asked him a few questions about his love of horticulture and how it lead to a fulfilling career.
What first interested you about working in horticulture?
I never had a clear plan set out to become a horticulturist; it has been something I just naturally fell into. Growing up in the countryside allowed me to develop an appreciation for open spaces, plants and gardens. As a child, I recall collecting carrier bags of chestnuts with my brother; the bulk of which were thrown at each other!
Why do you enjoy working in horticulture?
As a passionate plantsman I get to work with plants every day. I love propagating and nurturing them to a stage where they are of benefit to people; either for their ornamental value or edible qualities. To me, there is something very special about growing your own plants. I take joy from growing species plants, appreciating the millions of years of natural selection it has taken for them to get to where they are today. What is great about the horticultural industry is the variation of professions and disciplines it encompasses. There is a fantastic range of prospects for people of all ages, abilities and interests to engage with.
How did you get started?
Upon abruptly leaving school and a brief period of employment in my local butcher shop, I enrolled in a horticulture course at the Barony College. Whilst not really being all that interested in the academia, I took a real shine to the different elements of practical horticulture. I took a few seasonal positions in grounds maintenance, at the local garden centre and on a Christmas tree farm. These positions, whilst brief, helped me to gain work experience in different fields within the industry and to gain appreciation for the broad range of professions held under the banner of horticulture. After this, I took the leap and began working on a self-employed basis when I took on the maintenance of some local private gardens. This was a successful enterprise but it was then when I realised how little I knew and that I needed to become more knowledgeable. I enrolled on the Horticulture with Plantsmanship course delivered by SRUC and Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh. Having access to a world-renowned plant collection, as well as mixing with host of vastly knowledgeable and experienced people, I could improve my skills both practically and academically.
What was your first job?
My first job was as a seasonal groundsman at The Chrichton Estate, Dumfries. This is a large green space consisting of Parkland, a rock garden and sports pitches. The estate is home to many local businesses and it boasts a fine collection of mature specimen trees.
What happens on an average day in your current job?
Currently I manage a garden on a private estate in south west Scotland. As I have control over my own day to day activities, I do my best to keep the work varied. There are times when I have no choice but to spend days if not weeks on one task; hedge cutting for instance. I live where I work so I generally head for the greenhouse in the morning with cup of coffee and take care of the daily watering. It is then left to the weather to dictate what tasks I can undertake that day.
What is the best part of your job?
Without doubt the best part of my job is the lifestyle that goes with it. Living in the countryside in rural surroundings is just what I’m after. I get daily visits in the garden from my children after school and nursery with them often lending a hand. I love my job simply for the fact that even if I wasn’t employed to do it; I would be practising similar activities and jobs in my own time anyway!
What is the most challenging part
The most challenging aspect of my job is time management. It can be very easy to become fixated on single tasks with other elements of the garden becoming neglected as a result. I have learned from a couple of years in this job that, for example, the grass doesn’t stop growing because I have spent the week weeding!
What would you say your biggest work achievement has been?
My biggest work achievement has certainly been getting appointed as the main gardener where I currently work. Upon setting out on my academic studies; it was exactly the kind of job I was looking to get.
What would you like to do in the future? Why?
Currently I am very content in my current place of work. But looking forward, I want to continue to promote horticulture to wider audience. As a young man who has gained a great deal personally and professionally from becoming involved in horticulture; I would like to contribute to encourage the next generation of Horticulturists. I think that having people involved in horticulture from a young age is essential to getting them to take it up as a profession and fill the clear skills shortage the industry has. I would like to work towards more horticultural pursuits becoming a mandatory part of the school curriculum, which again I think would help to raise the profile of the industry. In years to come, I would like to become the next T.V. gardener. Following in the footsteps of the likes of Percy Thrower, Jeff Hamilton, Alan Titchmarsh or Monty Don is a personal goal and an opportunity I would relish. Crucially, assuming such a role would enable me to promote what horticulture can bring to your professional and personal life.