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.

About the course 

The course involves:

  • attending Kew Diploma lectures on Environmental Controls & Protected Cropping and Propagation
  • completing a Pest and Disease project looking at a range of P&D affecting Alpine plants

Students will unergo the following additional qualifications:

  • FEPA PA1 & PA6aw (spraying certificate)
  • manual handling course
  • health & safety training

Skills and areas covered in the Rock Garden: 

  • practical Rock Garden daily maintenance to a high standard including picking over, cutting back, hard landscape presentation
  • planting in crevices to include technique and suitable plants
  • an understanding of planting specific to the Rock Garden
  • an understanding of rock garden construction practices through guided walks and talks
  • an understanding of water features on the Rock Garden, their pros and cons and maintenance
  • collection management

Skills and areas covered in the Alpine House and Nursery: 

  • vegetative propagation of relevant species by cuttings
  • pest and disease control using Integrated Pest Management techniques
  • choice and usage of growing media
  • seed sowing techniques
  • bulb re-potting
  • sand plunging of pots
  • collection management
  • manipulation of growing conditions
  • manual irrigation within the Nursery


  • students are expected to hold a minimum a Level 2 qualification in Horticulture.
  • students should have six months* practical experience in a professional horticultural environment (*six months in total – not, for example, one day a week for six months). 
  • students must be computer literate with the ability to produce word-processed coursework.
  • students 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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