Below are some of the most important projects we are fundraising for at the moment to support young people develop creative careers.  We hope you are inspired to support this work.

The Jim Buckland and Sarah Wain Trainee Horticulturalist Fund

Give a Trainee Horticulturalist a great start - a year working in West Dean Gardens.

It is with thanks to your generous support that the Jim Buckland and Sarah Wain Trainee Horticulturalist appeal has so far raised an incredible £54,000. 

We caught up with Jim and Sarah recently and they were delighted with the progress of their fund, Sarah says;
"What better place than the diverse West Dean Gardens to start a career in horticulture under the dynamic tutelage of new Head Gardener Tom Brown."

Tom says "There is a great shortfall of people with experience in gardens like this, so every person we can help will help to ensure horticultural skills aren’t lost. We have now developed an excellent training programme where the individual will be exposed to a number of seasonal tasks across each area of the gardens. Now that we have this in place we have capacity to roll it out and help as many people as we can." 


Meet Trainee Horticulturalist Laura Mellor as she settles into West Dean Gardens

Your response to the Trainee Horticulturalist appeal in recognition of Jim and Sarah's great contribution to West Dean Gardens, was amazing!  You joined them to give a new trainee early-career experience working in a great historic garden, and here she is.

Head Gardener Tom has made the placement into a two year programme to ensure that Laura, as the first trainee on the scheme, can spend year one learning the basic elements of work in a historic garden, and develop her competencies in specific areas in year two. This will give her many more employment opportunities when her training at West Dean comes to an end.

We were delighted to welcome Laura to the gardens team in September. We caught up with her to see how she is settling in.

Click to read the interview with Laura

Q: How have your first few weeks been?
A: Amazing! I have thoroughly enjoyed every day so far, it’s been 6 weeks already and has gone so quickly. West Dean is an incredibly vast place and I am still getting to know where everything is, but everyone has been so warm and friendly. It’s great to have colleagues who have been here for so many years and have such a knowledge of the gardens – I am learning a lot, very quickly.

Q: What have you been up to since you started?   
A: Tom has created a fortnightly rota for myself and fellow trainee, Chantal, funded by Perennial to share. One week working in the glasshouses and display boarders, the next week working in the grounds and arboretum. This week I have been helping tend to plants in the glasshouses. My jobs have included taking cuttings, pot washing, cleaning all the glasshouses and moving plants – today I moved a display of succulents from the Spring Gardens into a glasshouse ready for the winter.

I have also started my RHS Level 2 qualification, the course is once a week for a year and includes two exams. It covers botany, plant propagation, classification and much more and is a fantastic theoretical part of my traineeship.

Q: What does the traineeship mean to you?
A: It’s a complete starting point for me, I came from a ‘Pick your own fruit’ farm and thought I had a fair amount of knowledge, but coming to a garden like West Dean I have realised how many different elements there are to horticulture. For example, I hadn’t expected to be working in the arboretum and I am really enjoying learning about all the different trees and getting exposure to so many landscapes. There is a huge variety of skill involved and I am excited to learn about each different area of the gardens and to see which pathway I will be drawn to.   
Q: What are your future career goals?
A: I want to work in a large established garden, and this traineeship is going to give me the knowledge and practical experience I need. I’m not yet sure exactly which path I will take, but being here for two years is fantastic as I can learn all of the areas in year one and specialise in a specific area in year two. I am confident I am on a good path now and am very excited about my future in horticulture. I would like to thank everyone who has helped make this possible for me. 

Help preserve our future

West Dean College and Gardens are part of a registered charity and relies on the support of generous donors, friends, legacies to help us deliver world-class education in conservation and the creative arts and maintain our award-winning gardens.

Find out how you can help support us