School of Horticulture

Kew started training young horticulturalists in 1859, when Director Sir Joseph Hooker introduced a two-year course of evening lectures in economics, systematics, structural and geographic botany, physics and chemistry.

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school of horticulture

School of Horticulture

Did you know?

  • Students are tested every two weeks on the names of specimens growing at Kew.
  • The most famous graduate of the Kew Diploma is the gardener, writer and TV presenter Alan Titchmarsh. A photo showing Course 7 students of 1969, in the corridor of the School of Horticulture, shows the young Titchmarsh all set for his studies in tweed jacket and tie.
  • Students are paid employees of Kew during their studies and receive payments throughout their course. This means they don’t have to take out a loan or pay tuition fees.

Historical information

Those who successfully completed the course were given a written testimonial qualifying them for jobs as curators and superintendents of gardens in the UK and throughout the British Empire. By 1938, horticultural teaching had evolved to include arboriculture, landscape design, soils and meteorology. Then in 1963, Director Sir George Taylor extended this ‘Kew Diploma’ course to three years, making it the equivalent of a degree.

Since 1990, the School of Horticulture has been based in a Grade II listed building built in 1848 by Decimus Burton. Located close to the Bonsai House, it contains fully-equipped lecture rooms, a design studio, library, laboratory, computer suite, common room, kitchen and administrative offices. Students from around the world gain knowledge of all aspects of horticulture, from plant physiology to conservation studies, through lectures, projects and practical work experience. They spend nine months of each year working with Kew’s living collections in the Gardens. Each student is allocated a plot on which to grow vegetables and flowers during their first year. Although the School of Horticulture is closed to the public, visitors can see these plots beside the Order Beds.




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