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Me & My Job - Stephen McCallum, gardens head, MacRobert Trust

Grow, 09 February 2012

- How did you get started in the industry?

Stephen McCallum: gardens head, MacRobert Trust
Stephen McCallum: gardens head, MacRobert Trust

I decided to change direction in the early 1990s following a 12-year career in architecture. After studying horticulture and gaining some industry experience, I became head gardener at BBC Scotland's Beechgrove Garden, where I managed the gardens as well as trialling plants, products and horticultural techniques. Timing and attention to detail was crucial because filming was carried out for 26 weeks of the year.

- What advice would you give to others starting out?

Gain hands-on training and a strong knowledge base. The importance of practical experience cannot be over emphasised. Hopefully, I practice what I preach - the MacRobert Trust horticultural training scheme offers hands-on experience alongside tuition and assessment towards recognised qualifications.

- What is the best aspect of your job?

It is deeply satisfying to see our trainees progress to further training, education or suitable employment. Equally pleasing is the skill and commitment of the horticultural team, who maintain the gardens to a very high standard.

- And the worst?

The long winters, often with months of snow.

- What piece of equipment can you not do without?

My PC - running the training scheme as well as managing the horticultural department and the trust's gardens means that desk work is an inevitable aspect of my job.

- How do you wind down after a hard day's work?

Cooking, a glass of wine and walking our dogs are all good.

- What are your plans for the garden?

At present, we are creating an arboretum and clearing a stretch of stream bank to develop a spring/autumn walk. As we have recently gained accreditation as an RHS training garden, I intend to develop this aspect of the training scheme.

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