Wintec horticulture students are taking full advantage of the Hamilton Gardens' range of themed gardens and exotic plants to gain hands-on experience in everything from ancient gardening concepts to different civilisations practices.

The course is aimed at developing gardeners specialised in amenity horticulture, a speciality targeted at looking after any greenery in public spaces, whether that be private gardens or roadside flowers.

Course tutor Stephen Cantor said the range of garden design and plants provided the perfect setting, with the added advantage of having a world-renowned garden on the CV.

"They give a really broad spectrum. If you want to learn about roses you can spend a Friday in the rose gardens for example.

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"Theory is okay, but you really need to get hands on. They study Monday to Thursday and then partner with gardeners on Fridays."

Mr Cantor said the experience gave Wintec students an edge.

"The quality of gardeners isn't as good as it used to be. There's been a culture of getting it done and dusted as quickly as possible."

Mr Cantor said another advantage was students were being given valuable insight into what the job's really about, "warts and all".

Student Tianna said there were parts of the job she loved.

"It makes the day go faster when you really get stuck in. It's great stepping back and seeing what you've done.

"You get to interact with the public, people always stop to tell you your doing a good job."

Fellow student Chelsey Stewart came from a public office background, and said she could not believe how easily she fell into it.

"It's a great link between theory and practical."

Wintec have been involved with the Hamilton Gardens in the past but the programme has only peaked in the last year.

Wintec was already responsible for maintaining the kitchen gardens, which allow a perfect setting for learning about soil cultivation methods, fertilising and growing seasonally.

The programme sees 14 students working around the gardens, with each rotating into a different area each week.

"The gardens get something like a million visitors a year, to learn somewhere like that is amazing," Mr Cantor said.

Involvement is set to increase with the allotted day moving from Friday to Wednesday, enabling the students to use more heavy machinery like ride-on mowers.

The programme seems to be yielding results, with four out of five recent internships at the Gardens going to Wintec students.

- Ged Cann