By now most people with even a cursory knowledge of the horticulture know that it's not the best paid industry around, and this is mostly because the funding simply isn't there to pay more, in addition to organisations having the mentality that garden staff are somehow second rate employees (a fact reflected in wages between different parts of an organisation). The nation's gardens and parks are being tended by an ever dwindling number of employed gardeners, partly as a result of technology making it possible for one person to jobs more efficiently (such as large lawn mowers speeding up the task of mowing big lawns), but also because various financial problems have meant that staff have had to be cut.
The gap between the amount of work to be done and the number of gardeners available to do it is increasingly being plugged by an army of volunteers. These people give their time and energy to helping garden staff to maintain and develop gardens across the UK. Over the years many gardens, especially those run by the National Trust, the RHS and other organisations, have come to rely increasingly on goodwill, but is this willingness to take part and get stuck in actually endangering gardens?
|Volunteers are vital in large gardens, but for good reasons?|
I've heard rants too; one RHS gardener (who again won't be named) got really annoyed that the gardeners increasingly felt that their role in the garden was just 'babysitting' volunteers, some of whom were incredibly able (and sometimes had to be stopped from going too far!) while others seemed to be volunteering simply as a way to pass the time and managed to cause more work than they were doing. Some volunteers were raring to go, while others wanted to doss around all day, but both required the supervision of a gardener.
|Even the RHS relies heavily on volunteers to maintain gardens.|
The people who sign up to become volunteers may be incredibly skilled and experienced gardeners or they might have never picked up a spade in their lives, they might be hard workers or lazy, they might be responsible or a liability... this list could go on. The problem is that until they've worked with a head gardener and a gardening team who can assess their skills and weaknesses properly they really should be monitored/supervised, tying down gardeners who should be gardening! I have over the years met some absolutely incredible volunteers, people with passion, skill and expertise who are a real asset to a garden, but I've also heard enough horror stories to know that some cause real headaches. I've heard blazing rows between volunteers who want to do a particular job and head gardeners who have other ideas, I've seen volunteers do bad jobs of things because they've lacked proper guidance and support, and several years ago I was even told by a volunteer at one National Trust property that the gardening staff there were all idiots and that if they had any sense they'd strip the herbaceous borders and turn them to bedding because that's what 'proper' gardeners do (I let him finish before I told him that the head gardener at that property was a good friend of mine)! These people cause grief while others become real assets to a garden and those employed to look after it, but when someone volunteers at a garden it's a real lucky dip as to what that person will be like, and all to often getting rid of 'bad' volunteers can prove difficult.
|Volunteers can work in some great gardens!|