Welcoming our new trainee gardeners

We are very pleased to welcome two new Garden Trainees – George Ellis and Millie Flint - who are the next recipients of the Jim Buckland & Sarah Wain Scholarship.  

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George Ellis and Camilla Flint with Head Gardener Tom Brown. © Neil C.
George Ellis and Millie Flint with Head Gardener Tom Brown. © Neil C.

Both trainees are local, one from East Sussex and the other from Hampshire, and have changed career paths in the past few years to pursue their passion to work in prestigious gardens and learn from inspiring gardeners. Previously George was a professional tuba player after studying at the Guildhall School of Music & Drama, however recently he has been volunteering at Charleston as well as achieving his RHS Level 2 qualification at Plumpton. Over the summer he also did a six-week internship at Sarah Raven’s Garden at Perch Hill. Although, Millie worked as a Primary School teacher, focusing on art, she always had an interest in gardening - helping her mother and grandmother. She recently finished her diploma in design at Inchbald School of Design then worked with Ann-Marie Powell for six weeks, including working on her garden at Chelsea Flower Show.   

The two one-year positions are being overseen by Head Gardener Tom Brown, who managed previous trainees Chantal and Laura, and prior to that, trainee programmes at RHS Wisley and Parham.

Tom said: “As Head Gardener, I am so fortunate to be able to work at West Dean Gardens with its vast amount of facilities and garden environments from Victorian Glasshouses to the Arboretum as well as its comprehensive fruit collection and Kitchen Garden. It is wonderful to be able to share and teach Camilla and George amongst these facilities to become equipped to enter the gardening world at an extremely competent level when they leave West Dean. Whether it be in large gardens or in domestic plots, we are short of good gardeners with sound knowledge and experience, so we have a duty at West Dean Gardens to help plug that gap and train the gardeners of tomorrow.” 

About his traineeship, George commented: “West Dean Gardens is known for its horticultural excellence and it is a wonderful opportunity to learn from gold-standard experts. I have been at West Dean for almost three weeks now and am really enjoying the variety and broad experience that this opportunity is giving me – we rotate one week in the Walled Garden and then one week in the grounds of the College. Working in the glasshouses is a new challenge for me – learning from the experts and I hope by the end of the year, I will have the confidence to put what I have learnt into practice.”  

He ended with: “I am also very aware of the importance of gardens being environmentally sustainable and would like to be able to focus on developing an ornamental and ecological space in the future.”    

While Millie said: “I decided to apply for the internship at West Dean Gardens because I am keen to experience more practical horticultural knowledge, and to be working directly with plants. I love to be outside and have come to realise that I am far happier in a potting shed for example, than a desk or a classroom.  Most of my previous experiences in gardens were focused on atypical English Cottage gardening, but at West Dean, I am broadening my repertoire and knowledge of plants, learning scrumptious new ones every day. I particularly love being in the arboretum and the Spring Garden with the trees and working immersed in their majestic silence they seem to create.’ 

She finished by saying: “In the long term I would like to work as part of a team in a garden that is open to the public.