Youngest Scot head gardener in Donside

HEAD GARDENER: Youngest in Scotland
HEAD GARDENER: Youngest in Scotland

Tim Keyworth, head gardener at Leith Hall in Donside, is one of the youngest to take charge of a heritage garden in Scotland, if not the UK.

So how did the 26 -year-old rise through the ranks so quickly? It turns out, as is often the case in gardening, it was all about finding the right conditions in which to thrive.

Tim- a native of Leicester- took up his place at the National Trust for Scotland’s School of Heritage Gardening in 2008.

The school offers one and two-year full-time courses at their main training centre - Threave Gardens in Dumfries and Galloway, and at heritage gardens around Scotland.

Tim said: “The school provided the opportunity for me to experience real hands on practical horticulture. I was basically learning on the job and working as a gardener at the same time.

“A special emphasis was placed on learning and building plant knowledge through weekly plant identification which was a big draw for me as I have always fancied myself as a ‘plantsman’.

“I had already been to college for two years and earned the National Diploma in Horticulture qualification but most of the teaching was done in classrooms.

“Threave offered me the chance to put this learning in to practice while building up experience in an amenity garden open to the public.”

Employers such as the National Trust for Scotland look to employ gardeners with a sound horticultural training – both practical and academic - but while colleges offer classroom training in the important scientific and artistic aspects of horticulture which underpin good practice, it has become more difficult in recent years to find students who have gained sufficient hands-on experience and understanding of the skilled practical aspects of heritage gardening.

Many of the traditional and modern skills can only be taught in any depth on a full time practical course.

The School of Heritage Gardening offers practical gardening skills to equip the future custodians of the nations heritage gardens.

Tim said: “The thing that excites me most is being able to undertake large bits work to put the garden back to its former glory, like the ongoing rock garden restoration.”