What makes an award-winning sommelier become a garden designer? 20 years’ experience in the hospitality trade, an award-winning career as a sommelier for some of the best hotels and restaurants, and a free ticket to travel the world, tasting top wines at other people’s expense. Sounds like a dream job to many people, and believe me, it was! So why did I give it up and retrain to become a professional garden designer? The answer is simple - passion.
Now don't get me wrong, I loved wine, and still do! (although when you have to start paying for it yourself, it becomes less ‘fine’ and more ‘affordable’!) but with a young family and a desire to spend more quality time together, we found ourselves out in the garden more than ever before.
I’ve always enjoyed gardening as a hobby. As a kid, my first attempts were rows of radishes and giant sunflowers in my dad’s garden. As an adult, house-with-garden-hunting became garden-with-house-hunting!
Gardening became an escape from the long, often stressful hours of catering and brought a sense of peace and calm after the hectic bustle of a busy service. As I got older, my passion for gardening grew like those giant sunflowers from the tiny seed of a hobby into a future possibility.
Friends, family and acquaintances were often asking me for help or advice and I was always reading books and magazines, anything to do with gardens and horticulture. But with no real training or education, I decided to do a Garden Design diploma, mainly for my own interest in how to put plants together to provide colour, texture or shape through the year. This was great for my theoretical knowledge and made me realise that I already had a strong understanding of plants and their uses.
With the change of profession becoming a real possibility, I enrolled to do a year’s placement as an apprentice on the WFGA Work and Retrain as a Gardener Scheme (WRAGS). Here I learned practical skills, timing and procedures that would add to my increasing portfolio of skills and it is a scheme I would highly recommend to anyone looking to change career!