In research carried out to highlight National Gardening Week (30 April-6 May 2018), the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) has discovered that more than a tenth of its 900 staff have names that can be linked to gardening. Around 12% of RHS staff have a name associated with nature, the outdoors or horticulture – supporting the theory of ‘nominative determinism’, the idea that people are drawn to careers that fit their names.
Nearly a third are taken directly from horticulture, including four Heathers, three Berrys and another three called Moss. And if you visit a plant centre at one of the four RHS Gardens, you might be served by a Gardiner, Marsh or Shears. More peripheral names include Hill, Moore and Shaw – an old English word for a strip of woodland – as well as Bird, Fountaine and Goodacre.
The horticultural staff roster at RHS Garden Wisley in Surrey includes a Garland, a Garlick and a Greenfield, as well as the garden’s aptly-named Curator, Matthew Pottage (who was precede in the role by Jim Gardiner). Heather Cutmore and Christopher Rose tend the gardens at RHS Garden Hyde Hall, Essex, and Rosie Treharne looks after fruit and vegetables at RHS Garden Rosemoor in Devon.
This National Gardening Week the theme is Share Your Passion for Plants and the RHS is inviting all gardeners and would-be gardeners to get involved. However it seems that many of its own employees were destined from birth to have a passion for plants. Chief Horticulturist Guy Barter says: “It’s a fascinating phenomenon and we would be interested to see whether the theory applies for people working in other sectors of the horticultural industry across the UK such as garden centres, growers, community gardening groups or other gardening organisations – especially if there’s a long history of gardening in the family!” Stories can be sent to email@example.com.
Matthew Pottage says the theory might hold true for him: “I do not have any professional gardeners among family members, so my love of all things green and leafy probably came from my grandma, who enjoyed collecting houseplants and gardening in her spare time. However, she was not from the Pottage side of the family, and I grew up just outside of Hull, where it certainly wasn’t commonplace for people to be pottering in their pottagers, so the name connection is perhaps a mystery at face value. But being the Curator of RHS Garden Wisley is my dream job, and surely one of the best jobs in the gardening world, so perhaps nominative determinism is at play here!”
The phenomenon extends far beyond the gardening staff at the RHS, however: Jo Sage manages the Society’s major fundraising projects and Suzanne Moss looks after the programme of horticultural courses. Fuchsia Wilkins is the Communications Officer for the Campaign for School Gardening and Kate Orchard is a Community Outreach Advisor. Heather Greig edits the RHS Life section of The Garden magazine, and although her grandfather received the RHS Long Service Medal for 40 years’ service as a gardener, she doesn’t think her name was chosen for its botanical connotations. She discovered her own love of gardening as an adult, and 20 years on from first applying for a job writing for The Garden she is still inspired by the organisation’s mission.
Despite their nature-inspired names, it seems that not everyone has forged a clear path to a career with the world’s largest gardening charity. Jasmine Hill, Deputy Operations Manager for the RHS Cardiff and Tatton Park Flower Shows, loves beautiful gardens, but her ‘irrational fear of bugs and things that buzz’ can hamper her enjoyment. Now the Head of Buying for the RHS Plant Centres, Malcolm Berry had originally intended to become a vet – but since taking a job as Assistant Manager of the RHS Garden Wisley Plant Centre more than 30 years ago, he hasn’t looked back.
More stories from RHS staff about their names and how they came to work for the RHS will be shared on the National Gardening Week website at www.nationalgardeningweek.org.uk. National Gardening Week runs from 30 April–6 May 2018, and people of all ages, abilities and names are encouraged to ‘Share Your Passion For Plants’ by planning or joining in with events to celebrate the garden all over the UK. The four RHS Gardens will be running a programme of fun and informative events to help visitors get growing, and talks with award-winning and celebrity gardeners including Adam Frost, Ann-Marie Powell, Charlotte Harris, Hugo Bugg, Jamie Butterworth and Nigel Dunnett.