Sissinghurst Castle Garden launches prestigious new horticulture scholarship – the National Trust’s first – to cultivate Head Gardeners of the future

Press release
A gardener working in the beds at Sissinghurst, Kent
Published : 09 Jun 2022

Sissinghurst Castle Garden in Kent, one of the world’s best-known gardens, is launching a new horticulture scholarship – the National Trust’s first – to nurture and develop the gardeners and head gardeners of the future.

The Sissinghurst Scholarship, generously funded by donations and legacies, will nurture excellence, giving practical hands-on experience in the art and craft of horticulture, with a particular focus on the traditions and practices of the garden’s founders, Vita Sackville-West and Harold Nicolson.

The flagship 18-month scholarship will commence in September.  In addition, a separate 10-month Growing Scholarship will begin next March, with an emphasis on nursery skills and kitchen gardening.

Each scholarship is open to both UK and international applicants with a minimum RHS Level 2 in Horticulture and offers a generous Grade 8 and Grade 10 salary, respectively. Heavily subsidised on-site accommodation is available.

Head Gardener Troy Scott Smith and his team will all work with the successful applicants to ensure scholars get the most from the experience.

Troy said: “Sissinghurst Castle Garden has been a foundation of horticultural learning for decades. In fact, in 1997, Nigel Nicolson, son of Vita and Harold, wrote that ‘Sissinghurst is a nursery not only for plants, but for head-gardeners'. 

“Now, as a leading international garden, we want to embed this legacy as a core principle, creating an informal but world-class training environment to keep the tradition of learning at Sissinghurst alive for decades to come.  

“The Sissinghurst Scholarship is open to all who want to learn and become part of the long-established tradition of teaching gardeners to be the best in their craft.”

The full scholarship will give a deeper understanding of topics including soil management, rose pruning, garden design, hedge care and plant health, with flexibility to focus on particular areas of interest. It will also cover topics not traditionally taught as part of typical horticulture courses, such as management skills, leadership, project management and working with the media.

Although based at Sissinghurst, scholars will have the opportunity to work at other prestigious National Trust and external gardens, such as Hidcote, Bodnant and Mount Stewart and renowned gardens in the United States and Europe.

Scholars will also gain an understanding of the wider National Trust – Europe's largest conservation charity – spending time with colleagues across all disciplines including curatorial, surveying, brand and marketing, visitor experience, volunteering and land and outdoors management.

Troy continued: “At the end of the placement, scholars will have had invaluable experience and a practical insight into how one of the world’s most famous gardens is managed through the seasons, helping give them – and horticulture – a bright future.”

The National Trust’s Head of Gardens and Parklands, Andy Jasper, said: “As custodian of some of the world’s greatest gardens, we take heritage gardening, our horticultural assets, and the profession seriously.

“The Sissinghurst Scholarship adds another layer to the Trust’s investment in horticultural excellence, alongside our existing apprenticeship scheme which will see 25 apprentices start their careers with us this September.

“We want to nurture and develop the very best talent, cultivating horticulturists who can lead internationally significant gardens with confidence.  This will help address the skill shortage that horticulture faces, provide exciting career paths, and ensure that heritage gardening skills and historic gardens are in the best possible hands.”

To find out more and apply, visit nationaltrustjobs.org.uk