Press Release: West Dean welcomes two new Trainee Gardeners

Award-winning West Dean Gardens near Chichester, West Sussex is very pleased to welcome two new Garden Trainees – Chantal Rich whose traineeship is funded by Perennial, the only UK charity dedicated to supporting people in horticulture and their families, and Laura Mellor, who is the first recipient of the Jim Buckland & Sarah Wain Scholarship.

Both trainees are local – one from West Sussex and the other from Hampshire.  Chantal, 29 years, worked in horticulture for five years and then changed path to work at a stables.  Laura, 30 years, changed careers five years ago from being a sports therapist to working at a pick-your-own farm; she has always been surrounded by horticulture as her mother is a florist and her stepfather, a gardener.

The two two-year positions are being overseen by West Dean’s Head Gardener Tom Brown, who has managed trainee programmes at RHS Wisley and Parham. He said: “We are very happy to welcome Laura and Chantal to the gardens team and look forward to seeing them learn over the next couple of years. Our thanks go to Perennial for funding of one of the traineeships and for the other, it is great to welcome our first trainee through the scholarship that honours the legacy of our former head gardeners Jim Buckland & Sarah Wain. Not only do Laura and Chantal get to work in the wonderful gardens at West Dean, they also get to study one day a week at nearby Brinsbury College, which is part of Chichester College.”

He continues: “We are pleased that the roles are for two years as it means that the trainees will get to see the gardens go through two cycles. This hands-on opportunity is a wonderful springboard into working in a professional garden and the world of horticulture. They will be assigned to a member of the gardens team and they will get to do a wide range of work in the garden. This will give them excellent experience to progress on to becoming a senior gardener in a prestigious garden in the future.”

Julia Hayne, Director of Services at Perennial comments: “As part of our aim to build better futures for people in horticulture and their families, Perennial provides a range of support services including free and confidential advice, as well as training opportunities. We are delighted to be supporting Chantal in her traineeship at West Dean Gardens. We are passionate about providing people with the knowledge and tools to grow their career in horticulture and we are pleased to be part of this journey with Chantal. We want to encourage more people to choose a career in horticulture and we hope that offering quality training experiences like this traineeship at West Dean will inspire others to seek similar opportunities.”

Helen Saelensminde, Group Head of Fundraising, West Dean noted: “Our thanks go to Perennial for funding of one of the traineeships and for the other, it is great to welcome our first trainee through the scholarship that honours the legacy of our former head gardeners Jim Buckland & Sarah Wain.  This has been made possible thanks to generous donations from West Dean Gardens Friends and visitors.”

Notes to editors

  • West Dean Gardens is part of the Edward James Foundation, a charitable trust, also comprising West Dean College of Arts and Conservation, West Dean Estate and the West Dean Tapestry Studio. Charity No. 1126084.
  • West Dean Gardens have recently announced that it will be open all year round, with the exception of December 23-26, 2019 and January 1, 2020.
  • In 2018, West Dean established the Jim Buckland and Sarah Wain Trainee Horticulturalist fund to give a trainee a great start.
  • West Dean College of Arts and Conservation offer a range of Garden-related courses and talks. 
  • To donate to the trainee horticulturalist fund visit our donation page
  • Perennial helps anyone who professionally creates or maintains gardens, parks, sports facilities and other green spaces. If you work with plants, trees or grass, or work in the places where they grow, Perennial is your charity. Everyone working in or retired from horticulture, forestry or arboriculture is eligible for our free and confidential help, which includes friendly one-to-one advice, support and financial assistance.

    More information is available on or through social media

For further information or high-resolution digital images, please contact Rachel Aked:
Email: [email protected]
Tel: 07790 732448

West Dean Gardens, Near Chichester, West Sussex, PO18 ORX