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The Sissinghurst Scholar

Sissinghurst Scholar Paul in the White Garden at Sissinghurst
Sissinghurst Scholar Paul in the White Garden at Sissinghurst | © National Trust Images/Cassie Dickson

Find out more about the Sissinghurst Scholarship Programme, designed to nurture the talented gardeners of the future.

The Sissinghurst Scholarship

In June 2022, Sissinghurst Castle Garden opened applications for The Sissinghurst Scholarship - a new programme offering gardeners the special opportunity to work alongside our Head Gardener Troy Scott-Smith and his team whilst developing practical hands-on experience. The Scholarship is designed to cultivate the Head Gardeners of the future and was generously funded by donations and legacies.

When asked what the Scholarship could offer individuals, our Head Gardener Troy Scott-Smith 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.”

Meet the Sissinghurst Scholar

Paul Mooncie-Dunmall has started work as the second ever Sissinghurst Scholar.

Excited for the opportunities ahead, Paul commented that "The Scholarship is so important, not only in cultivating future Head Gardeners and acquiring the tools to inspire the next generation, but also ensuring our National Trust gardens and parks are nutured for years to come."

Paul will share his progress and updates on our weekly Friday segment a Scholar's Notebook on Instagram and Facebook. Search #scholarsnotebook to read up on Claire and Paul's journey so far.

The inaugural Sissinghurst Scholar Claire Margetts with her successor Paul Mooncie-Dunmall
The inaugural Sissinghurst Scholar Claire Margetts with her successor Paul Mooncie-Dunmall | © National Trust Images/Cassie Dickson

The inaugural Scholar

Claire Margetts was selected from 59 candidates as the inaugural recipient of the Sissinghurst Scholarship and spent 18 months learning her craft. Although based at Sissinghurst, Claire had the opportunity to visit associated garden organisations, both in the UK and internationally, to broaden her development and learn from a variety of experts.

After finding that the scholarship would have a particular emphasis on the approach of the garden's founders, Vita and Harold, Claire said, “The pull of applying to be a part of the traditions and practices used by Vita and Harold, under the tuition of Head Gardener Troy Scott-Smith and his team, was irresistible.

Upon graduating at the end of March 2024, Claire reflected that "[T]he experience has been enriching, accelerating, on occasion incredibly challenging and the nuance of learnings invaluable and absolutely unexpected. The breadth of content, my learnings and connections are still being processed.

"I am honoured to have been able to help with building the profile of the Scholarship internally and within the industry, fundraise for its future and go forth as the first of what I am sure will be an alumni that gives back to the heritage industry as a whole.

"I want to say a huge thank you to the team at Sissinghurst, the family, the National Trust and all our partner gardens who were involved in bringing this inaugural Scholarship to life."


Meet the Sissinghurst Scholars
Go behind the scenes with our Sissinghurst Scholar and Growing Scholar to learn more about their daily work here.Find out more