A career in recruitment may not be the obvious start for many horticulturalists, but it was the path Nell Jones, the newly appointed Head Gardener at London’s oldest botanic garden, followed.
For 16 years, Nell enjoyed her flourishing career as a head-hunter but little did she know then that a new adventure awaited her. She embarked on a journey that lead her to take the helm at one of the most significant and important gardens for plant discovery in the UK if not the world, Chelsea Physic Garden, London.
In the early years of quitting the 9 to 5 office life, Jones volunteered in a garden located at a charity that offered care for adults with severe disabilities and medical conditions. The volunteering gave her the appetite for gardening. Enamoured with Chelsea Physic Garden, she took the plunge and volunteered her time at the small London site. At first, her volunteering role was restricted to the deceptively simple task of watering pots. Life as a full time trainee at the Garden followed thanks to the Historic and Botanical Gardens Bursary Scheme and survival on savings.
The then Head Gardener of Chelsea Physic Garden and subsequent presenter on Gardener’s World, Nick Bailey, was taken by Nell’s commitment and hard work as a trainee at the garden and was keen to offer her a full-time role, however nothing was available and the two parted company, seeing Nell take a job in a private London garden. On her very first day she got a call from Bailey to say a role was now vacant and hoping she could return to Chelsea Physic Garden!
Since those early days Nell has thrived at the Garden and moved up the ranks. She loves the hands-on nature of the role and is most passionate about British native plants. “The position of Head Gardener at the extraordinary Chelsea Physic Garden really is walking in the footsteps of some of the most well-known horticulturalists,” she said, adding: “So many important developments in the history of horticulture medicine and agriculture have been made at Chelsea Physic Garden.”