Horticulture career focus: How Eddie turned his horticulture hobby into a career


"My advice is if you have an interest in horticulture then give it a go. It will be hard work and at times you might wonder why you are doing this but overall it is rewarding, informative and achievable. It will be the best thing you will ever do and it will change your life forever - it has for me."

Self-employed Eddie Byrne enjoys a varied work life including professional horticulture services and tutoring in horticulture since returning to education himself

What course(s) did you study?

I studied the Bachelor of Science in Horticulture and the Bachelor of Science (Hon) Land Management (in Horticulture)

What motivated you to return to full-time study as a mature student?

I am a qualified metal fabricator and in 2009 I was made redundant. The main motivation for returning to collage was to retrain and get back into the workplace. By returning to education it gave me the opportunity to make my horticultural hobby into a career.

What is your job? What does a typical week look like for you?

I am self-employed horticulturist. I established Eddie Byrne Horticulture in November 2015, to provide a range of Professional Horticultural services including Garden Design, Garden Consultation, Project Management, Soft Landscaping and Garden Maintenance. My clients are from both the private and public sectors.

For the past 2 years, I have been a level 3 & 4 Horticulture tutor in the Carlow, Kilkenny Back to Education Initiative (BTEI). To date I have successfully tutored on over 50 courses such as Growing Vegetables, Plant Propagation, Horticultural Tools and Equipment, Sport Surfaces Maintenance, Establishing Ornamental Flowers, Agricultural Mechanics, Hand Held Pesticide Application, and Tractor Safety.

My normal week can vary immensely so it is never boring but it usually consists of tutoring from Monday to Friday in numerous locations around the country. Depending on the time of the year, I can often be found carrying out various landscaping and garden maintenance jobs from small town gardens to commercial and public-sector contracts. The Landscaping side of the business can vary from sowing lawns to planting hedging to the planting of large rootball trees. Whatever the case, each day brings a new opportunities and challenges.

What do you like about your job(s)?

The best part of my job has to be the variety of things I get to do - two days are rarely the same. One day you would be tutoring with a class full of students the next day you would be planting a hedge or designing a garden. While doing this I get the opportunity to meet and work with a huge range of people from all different aspects of life. I would highly recommend working for yourself - despite some days been hectic, the feeling of job satisfaction and my job fulfilment is great every day.

What did you like about the BSc. in Horticulture course in WIT?

From my very first day, I believed that this was a great opportunity that came my way. I took on the challenge and wanted to succeed so I worked hard at all aspects of the course. I really enjoyed my time at WIT. It gave me the chance to learn new skills and educate myself so I could re-skill in a completely new area. The knowledge I acquired opened my eyes to many new ways of doing things. The facilities are really good and the lecturers and staff are excellent and very supportive and helpful.

Where did you do your work placement?

I did my placement at Blarney Castle Gardens and Estate. The estate consists of over 60 acres of parkland which includes a variety of gardens, a large walled garden and glasshouse which house many rare and usual plants.

While working in the different gardens at Blarney Castle, I gained a wide range of knowledge and experience. A typical day consisted of early-morning watering of plants in the glasshouse followed by an itinerary set out by Adam the head gardener. To name just a few, jobs included stump grinding, using the woodchipper, planting hedging, laying out and planting the new Himalayan walkway, and the creation of the new riverside walk. The work also included researching and the sowing many rare Rhododendron and Pine seed plants from various parts of the world.

I found my placement at Blarney Castle very informative and a good place to learn about much of the practical side of horticulture. Your work placement is also a good place to make contacts for the future and if you work hard it could help you get your foot in the door so it is important to choose wisely with your future career in mind.

What things did you learn on the course which are invaluable in your job today?

There’s not a day goes by that I wouldn’t refer to various things that I learned on the WIT Horticulture course. I gained an excellent background in horticulture, and an understanding and appreciation of all aspects of business, health and safety which is so useful as a self-employed person, or taking on a management position in a horticulture business.

I also found the course helped me identify and understand lots of transferable skills like verbal and non-verbal communication. Since finishing the course, I have found that these skills are as important as the practical side of the course - it is very important to have good listening skills to understand what your client or student requires and have confidence to make decisions as needed. The course and my education gave me the confidence to choose my career path for myself.

What life skills did your time in WIT give you?

The course gave me the inner and outer confidence to believe in myself. I know that through my education and my work experience I am now qualified to do my job to the best of my ability. I learned while attending WIT to communicate with my fellow students and the staff and this gave me the confident and assertiveness needed for making decisions which leaves me in much better position to achieve my life and career goals.

What are your plans for the future?

My aim is to continue with the range of work I have to date and take on all new opportunities that come my way. I will grow the business and help create better links with my clients. I also plan to introduce a range of metal plant supports, from wall trellis to plant obelisks.

Another part which is extremely important to me to continually learn so I keep my knowledge and skills updated, so I plan to study some short courses this year.

What advice would you give to a mature student who is thinking of studying horticulture?

My advice is if you have an interest in horticulture then give it a go. It will be hard work and at times you might wonder why you are doing this but overall it is rewarding, informative and achievable. It will be the best thing you will ever do and it will change your life forever - it has for me!!!

It might be daunting at first and there may even be moments during the course where you feel out of your depth but with hard work, realistic goals, and the drive to succeed along with huge support network available to students in WIT and Kildalton it will be worth it in the end.

What advice would you give to a parent of a horticulture student?

I would encourage them to speak to their son or daughter to advise them not to be afraid to think outside the box. When it comes to work placement, work somewhere that will give them a wide range of work experience. Ask the student to be realistic about what they want to work at after their studies i.e. tutoring, landscaping, retail etc. Also encourage them to grow plants at home or at college. Whether it is plants, flowers, trees or vegetables they choose this will aid them with the course and their studies where they will learn to feed, maintain, educate and be successful in their chosen horticultural career.

The Sodshow Podcast: Listen to Hort student Eddie Byrne talk about his student experience in WIT

Listen to the Sodshow on Audioboom.

Related Courses

Bachelor of Science in  Horticulture (Kildalton College)
Bachelor of Science in  Horticulture (National Botanic Gardens)
Bachelor of Science (Honours) in  Land Management in Horticulture

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