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Horticultural Training and Development Awards - The Diana Aitchison Fund

The SRGC administers a training and development award scheme - the Diana Aitchison Fund. This fund provides awards to support young people who want to pursue a career in horticulture, and especially to further their knowledge of alpine and rock garden plants, and their cultivation. The fund was established thanks to a generous bequest from the late Diana Aitchison. She was a keen gardener and plantswoman who trained at the Edinburgh Botanic Garden and set up and ran her own nursery at Spindlestone, near Belford, Northumberland.

Since the Fund started in 2005, we have given almost 75 awards to help young gardeners develop their careers.

The Fund will consider applications in respect of horticultural courses, learning placements at establishments of gardening excellence, such as botanic gardens, colleges or nurseries, and study visits.

We particularly value applications from students wishing to undertake horticultural courses lasting a year or more, and the Fund might contribute towards fees, living costs or travel expenses. This could be a full-time course or part-time study.

We will also help with shorter-term learning at other locations, such as a work experience placement at a botanic garden or nursery, or a study tour of quality alpine establishments.

A personal contribution toward the cost of any course would be expected from any recipient.

Eligible expenses include: course fees and materials, living expenses, travel costs, outlay in respect of placements in the UK or overseas.

Particular attention will be paid to an applicant's knowledge of, and interest in, alpines.

We strongly prefer each application to have a UK element. This might be a UK-based student studying or taking a placement in the UK or abroad, or a foreign applicant seeking to spend time at a UK establishment.

Grants from the Diana Aitchison Fund will be available each year, and may be awarded at any time: there are no closing dates for applications. An indication of the value of awards made in previous years is given in the full information sheet available from the link below.

If you are interested in applying the please look at the Information Sheet and read this carefully. The Fund does not offer assistance for conferences or research projects. It also does not support expeditions, botanical trips or tours (but help for these may be available from the SRGC Exploration Fund Ė see the link on the menu above).

To apply, please download and complete a Grant Application Form (pdf). There are no deadlines for receipt of applications, and these can be emailed to . You can also contact the Fund Administrator, Matt Topsfield, by phone: 07775 812036.

Here are examples of some previous Exploration Awards:

Objectives Amount
Training/study Placement at Gothenburg Botanic Garden    £300
Study visits to European alpine Botanic Gardens    £600
Training placement at Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh £1,000
Placement at St Andrew's Botanic Garden RHS Level 2 course £1,000
Funding for RHS M.Hort programme from RHS Wisley    £750
Placement at Longwood Botanic Garden, Pennsylvania £1,500
6 students study tour of rock Gardens in SE England £3,000
Study tour of UK alpine houses and growing methods £1,300
Course fees at RBG Edinburgh / Edinburgh University £3,000

If you are interested in applying the please look at the Information Sheet and read this carefully.

To apply, please download and complete a Grant Application Form (pdf).  There are no deadlines for receipt of applications.

The Institute of Horticulture has a Bursaries and Grants page detailing other possible sources of funding which might help with your proposals. Bursaries and Grants

Recipient Story 1 - Petra Palkova

While Petra Gair Palkova was studying HND horticulture with plantsmanship at SRUC/Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh she took a gap year to train at the National Trust for Scotlandís School of Heritage Gardening. She was one of a group of students awarded funds for a study tour of English Gardens in summer 2015, and was awarded funding to help with study costs in her 2nd year of HND course.

She was subsequently awarded a post in the Alpine and Rock Garden Team at RBGE Edinburgh where she worked for several years, and received funding to help with a study trip to Gothenburg Botanic Gardens to receive specialist advice on growing and propagating Dionysias.

Petra is now back working with the NTS as Propagator/Gardener at the prestigious Branklyn woodland and alpine Garden near Perth. She continues to be an active member and supporter of the SRGC.
Recipient Story 2 - Nick Courtens

Nick Courtens was a young gardener who started as an intern in 2010 working at the Betty Ford Alpine Garden in Vail Colorado. In 2015 he was awarded funding to tour British gardens with alpine houses and tufa gardens to study methods to help with the development of the first alpine house at the Vail Gardens. This was completed in the following years and is now a great attraction of the Garden.

In 2017 Nick received a second award for a training placement working on the rock gardens at RBG Edinburgh and the Explorersí Garden Pitlochry. He went on to become Senior Curator of the Vail Gardens, working on all aspects of alpine and rock garden plants. Tragically Nick was killed in a rafting accident on the Colorado River in 2023, but left a real legacy in the form of his work in transforming the Vail Alpine Gardens.
Recipient Story 3 - Bertie Swainston

Bertie Swainston began his horticultural career in 2013 as a Historic Gardens trainee with the National Trust at Hidcote Manor. He moved on to Birmingham Botanic Gardens and the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, before becoming the Alpine Trainee across RHS Harlow Carr and the RBG Edinburgh in 2021.

In 2022 he moved to a post as Alpines Horticulturist at RHS Harlow Carr, where he is studying for the RHS Master of Horticulture degree in his spare time, a course which the Aitchison Fund is pleased to support. Bertie's final year dissertation focusses on the conservation of native upland flora in the UK.

Bertie is now an Associate Member of the RHS Alpine and Rock Garden Plant Committee.
Recipient Story 4 - John Foley

John Foley was associated with the SRGC from the very start of his career, as he sold plants with his father from the Holden Clough Nursery trade stand at SRGC shows as a schoolboy.

The Aitchison Fund was able to offer help with his Horticulture College Course fees in one of its first awards.

In due course John took over the running of Holden Clough Nursery, which continues successfully today, and exhibits at many RHS shows. In 2012, John from was the first winner of the prestigious BBC Young Gardener of the Year Award.
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