Kew Specialist Certificate - Rock Gardens & Alpine Cultivation

A one year, full-time course to gain a specialist certificate in Rock Gardens and Alpine cultivation.

Flowers in the Rock Garden, Kew


1 year course

About the Rock Garden 

The Alpine and Rock Garden collections are made up of over 7,000 plants. They're planted permanently outside on Kew’s one and a half acre Rock Garden, in pots in our half acre Alpine Nursery, and as permanent and changing displays in the iconic Davies Alpine House. 

The Rock Garden dates from 1882 and is built of Sussex sandstone in the traditional ‘English’ style. It's laid out geographically with six major regions being represented. 

Each area is planted with typical rocky habitat species; plants found in gorges, coastal cliffs, alpine meadows, montane forests and also above the tree line are amongst those grown. 

About the Davies Alpine House

Opened in 2006, the Davies Alpine house is designed to provide the best conditions to grow and display a range of bulbs, mountain and mediterranean plants. 

This glass house has permanent planted areas and pot grown subjects supplied by the Alpine Nursery which are changed twice a week.

In addition to supplying display plants, the Alpine Nursery cultivates plants for scientific research.

The plants grown in the Nursery range from bulbs of the central Asian dry lands to those that inhabit the Cape of South Africa, from compact high alpine cushions and silver saxifrages of Europe to perennials and sub shrubs from the mediterranean basin.


This course is perfect for horticulturists wishing to specialise in a particular area of horticulture by spending a full year within that area of specialism.

Open to horticulturists anywhere in the world who would like to come to Kew to undertake some professional training in some of Kew’s unique plant collections. This course runs from September to September.

The programme involves:

  • working full-time within Kew’s Rock Garden, Davies Alpine House, Alpine Nursery
  • undertaking two weeks of work experience or a travel scholarship related to Rock gardens and Alpine cultivation


The coursework involves: 

  • attending the Kew Diploma lectures on Propagation and The Management of Living Collections
  • completing a pest and disease project looking at a range of pests and diseases affecting  alpine plants
  • regular plant identification tests
  • plant of the month

Additional qualifications 

  • FEPA PA1 & PA6aw
  • Manual handling course
  • Health & Safety training
  • In-house tractor driving course


  • £19,582 per annum, plus a £725 book and equipment allowance


To be eligible for the course, applicants:

  • are expected to hold a Level 2 qualification in horticulture, or equivalent (such as a PGG traineeship or HBGTP)
  • should have as a minimum six months* practical experience in a professional horticultural environment (*six months in total - not, for example, one day a week for six months)
  • must be computer literate with the ability to produce word-processed coursework
  • from overseas are considered, and acceptance is subject to a work permit being granted for non-EU nationals. A good working knowledge of the English language is essential and evidence to that effect will be requested.
A horticulturist waters plants in the Temperate House

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