No need to fear for the ‘lost generation of gardeners’ in Northern Ireland

Date published: 27 May 2016

Concerns were expressed by the Royal Horticultural Society at the opening of this year’s Chelsea Flower Show that Britain has a ‘lost generation’ with no gardening skills. However, there need be no such concerns in Northern Ireland.

Foundation degree student, Adam Ferguson, leads a new generation of professional gardeners and florists at Greenmount

A quick look at the achievements of Greenmount’s current horticulture students and recent graduates clearly demonstrates that our parks, gardens and green spaces are in safe hands.

Foundation Degree student, Francis Mulholland, is the current Chartered Institute of Horticulture ‘Young Horticulturalist of the Year’ for all of Ireland. Fellow student, James Purdy, recently won the prestigious Kilsaran Student Garden Design Competition – with a role in building Diarmuid Gavin’s Chelsea garden being just part of his prize.

Meanwhile, Extended Diploma graduates, Aaron Jamison and Matthew Bradley, have been hard at work constructing another Silver Gilt Medal winner - the amazing Hartley Botanic garden designed for Chelsea by Catherine McDonald.

Another Greenmount student, Adam Ferguson, was selected to attend the RHS Chelsea Flower Show industry breakfast where he will meet industry leaders to celebrate technology in horticulture. Adam was nominated by the College to attend the event because he is a member of the WorldskillsUK Landscape Gardening Squad and will represent the UK at the Euroskills Competitions in Sweden later this year. He will be accompanied by Colin McKnight, a tutor at Greenmount and Training Manager for the Squad.

Chelsea isn’t all about gardening. Some of the UK’s best floristry is also on display and two of Greenmount’s young floristry students, Shannon Ormandy and Natalie Straney, have been showcasing their skills in the RHS Young Chelsea Florist of the Year Competition. Each of them has been awarded a Bronze Medal for their design work at the Show.  

Closer to home a small group of Diploma students won a Gold Award for their ‘Worldskills Success’ Cameo Garden at Garden Show Ireland earlier this month. They built the garden, designed by James Purdy, to celebrate the success of Greenmount graduate, Jonathan Gill, who won a Silver Medal at the Worldskills Landscape Gardening Final in Sao Paulo, Brazil, last August.

It’s obvious that behind every great sporting venue in Northern Ireland, be it one of our prestige golf courses or sports grounds, there’s a team of greenkeepers and groundsmen with the skills to maintain playing surfaces in pristine condition. Many of those employed in this specialist area have trained at Greenmount and our greenkeepers and groundsmen are in demand throughout the UK and Ireland. Some go further afield, for example, Greenkeeping Cadet, Fergal Greenan, is currently working as Assistant Greenkeeper at the world famous Congressional Golf Club, Maryland, USA.

Paul Mooney, Head of Horticulture Education at Greenmount, said: “I understand that in Britain, as more people have busy working lives their leisure hours are reduced. However, this has led to an even greater demand for professional gardeners, florists and other horticulturalists, as people want to enjoy their precious leisure time in gardens, parks and sporting activities.

All the students mentioned in this article are well under thirty years of age, some are still teenagers. I’m very proud of their achievements and wish more young people considered the great range of career choices horticulture offers, especially at supervisory and management level. The health benefits of an active, outdoor career are well documented and I’m in no doubt that you’ll find a whole new generation of top class professional gardeners and florists right here at Greenmount.”

Notes to editors: 

  1. All media enquiries to DAERA Press Office, or tel: 028 9052 4619.

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