Gardening might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but for the Christchurch Botanic Garden’s newest apprentice it’s a dream come true.

Breanna Hill is just a few weeks into starting her new role at the Gardens –a three year apprenticeship working as a horticultural trainee.

Funded by the Helen Irvine Friends of the Botanic Gardens Scholarship, the role was made possible by the generous bequest from the late Helen Irvine, who worked at the Gardens in the 1960's. It is where she learnt some of her early horticultural skills, and before she passed away in 2019, Ms Irvine asked that the money be spent giving someone else the same opportunity. 

The Friends of the Christchurch Botanic Gardens is matching the amount put forward by Ms Irvine to help fund the apprenticeship, with Council making up the slight shortfall.

Gardening 'a display of art'

There’s a lot of ground to cover for Breanna, who is part of the close-knit team working hard on the Garden's many displays.

Her job is diverse – from working with native plants, to weeding and making the flower beds more presentable - each day is different.

“It’s more like artwork than maintenance," she says.

“The Gardens are a display…like an art gallery.”

Breanna completed a Bachelor of Science, Ecology and Conservation at Lincoln University, and between that and working part-time at a local nursery, she found her passion.

“Plants are my thing, I think. They are really quirky.”

She enjoys the tranquillity of the Gardens.  Having worked in retail before, she says her new role is a welcome relief from the hustle and bustle of shoppers going about their business. 

 "I feel a lot more relaxed...a lot calmer."

Cicada song and the sound of birds fill her day and she enjoys interacting with visitors to the Gardens, who she says are often amazed by the “little things you learn about certain plants". 

Paving the way for future opportunities 

Friends of the Christchurch Botanic Gardens Vice-President Jane Cowan-Harris is hoping the scholarship will be on offer again in three years’ time.

She’s working – alongside her colleagues and Council staff – to make the role a tri-annual appointment, and a programme has been established to accept donations to pay for another apprentice in 2023.

 “It’s really exciting…for the city, for the Friends of the Botanic Gardens and for the Council.”

Among other things – she’s hopeful the apprenticeship will give existing staff some extra support.

“It really is a huge area that they cover. I take my hat off to them.”

 “All the staff are very talented…many have been here a long time and I think we need to appreciate them.”

Botanic Gardens Director Wolfgang Bopp says the apprenticeship has made a big difference to the Gardens, and existing staff enjoy sharing their skills and expertise.

“We need to have people to take this work forward. It’s great being able to develop the Botanic Gardens and greenspace professionals of the future – teaching them how to maintain and develop our plant collections.”