An interview with Will Ritchie


Will Ritchie

What is your horticultural role?

I’m curator of the National Botanic Garden of Wales – 560 acres which includes a formal gardens as well as a framed National Nature Reserve (NNR). We’re also doing in situ conservation on the NNR to champion Welsh flora as well as ex situ conservation in the garden The garden opened in the year 2000, with the idea for the garden starting in 1987, and has grown quickly!

How did you come to be at the National Botanic Garden of Wales?

A lot of luck! I started with seasonal work in domestic gardens and the National Trust for Scotland before going to the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh (RBGE) for practical training and a degree in horticulture plantsmanship – a fantastic course. After four years at RBGE, I did postgraduate study in the USA and then came back as Assistant Curator at Glasgow Botanic Garden.

Why horticulture?

It was a comfortable fit having been exposed to gardening all my life – and seemed a good way to make some money to fund traveling. When I realised I could have a career in horticulture, and with RBGE on my doorstep, it felt like an easy progression. Working with the staff at RBGE really inspired and encouraged me.

What do you enjoy about your current role?

It is a young botanic garden with a long list of achievable projects such as conserving the national flora of Wales, and I can see tangible gains in research, education and community involvement already. Being part of this bigger project is really rewarding.

What are you working on at the moment?

The Growing the Future project is particularly interesting as extends the plant conservation role of the garden to involve the community and people around Wales to talk about horticulture (including dandelion identification) and encourage the next generation to take up a trowel.

Do you have a favourite part of the garden?

Probably not a surprise, but the Norman Foster designed Great Glasshouse – the centrepiece of the garden

What three plants would you want to be stranded with on a deserted island?

A plant in need of study such as a resurrection fern, Phylica pubescens for stress relief and kale for nutrition!

Is there anything about you that might surprise people?

It is surprising to others that I look after a farmed National Nature Reserve and I’m learning a lot about sheep and cattle, particularly native/local breeds!

What would you like to achieve in your role?

Making the garden a true national botanic garden centred on plant conservation, education and inspiration. Last year was our best year ever!

Would you recommend any training pathways for those entering horticulture?

Definitely apprenticeships! The one we offer here includes a background in botany as well as the practical aspects.

Is there anywhere in the world you would like to visit?

I would like to spend more time in Mexico, it has such a varied landscape, flora and ecosystems.

National Botanic Garden of Wales

Visit the website for the National Botanic Garden of Wales for more information about the garden, or look it up on the PlantNetwork Directory.

Find out more about PlantNetwork events at the National Botanic Garden of Wales:

With thanks to Bruce Langridge and Will Ritchie of National Botanic Garden of Wales for question format and original podcast idea