Vacancy: Head Gardener

A wonderful opportunity for an enthusiastic, skilled and hands on Head Gardener to lead an energetic team to manage and maintain the beautiful Mount Stuart gardens on the Isle of Bute.

Mount Stuart’s gardens are set within an estate covering 271 hectares (670 acres), on the Island of Bute, overlooking the Firth of Clyde. They are of considerable historical significance and contain many features of national and international importance; described by Historic Scotland as “one of Scotland’s most notable designed landscapes and outstanding in many ways”.

The important Scottish architect Alexander McGill, who designed the first Mount Stuart house, was responsible for the layout of the gardens from 1717. This original design was then adapted and developed as the tastes and horticultural interests of successive generations of the Bute family changed down the centuries.

The horticultural significance of Mount Stuart is also considerable, as it is home to numerous champion trees and plant collections of national and international importance. The 3rd Earl, who was a keen amateur botanist and played an influential role in the foundation of Kew Gardens, planted many trees during the 18th century, including the Lime Tree Avenue. The 1st Marquess continued the development and planting of the grounds from the 1790s, inspired by a visit to Mount Edgecombe in Cornwall. Many of these original trees, including oaks, sycamores and ashes, still survive. Today, the arboretum contains numerous impressive trees and forms part of the National Tree Collection of Scotland.

Key purpose

To ensure that the gardens and related landscape (The Policies) of Mount Stuart are managed and maintained as an internationally recognised garden of outstanding historical and horticultural importance, contributing to the Trust’s overall conservation and development, and its enjoyment by visitors and supporters.

Key responsibilities

The role of the Mount Stuart Head Gardener will suit a skilled, experienced, energetic and proactive team player who enjoys realising and maintaining the vision of others.

1. Planning. Contribute to discussions on development plans for the gardens and wider designed landscape, and responsible for delivery of these development plans.

2. Delivery. Produce and execute maintenance plans for all areas of the gardens and wider designed landscape. The Head Gardener will be responsible for the day to day running of the gardens to ensure the conservation and practical maintenance of the garden.

3. People Management. Responsible for effectively managing and motivating the gardening team, including supervising staff, contractors and volunteers. This encompasses recruitment, induction, training and development to ensure excellent standards of horticultural husbandry and plantsmanship are achieved, and that the wider gardens team are fully equipped and motivated to undertake their duties to the required Trust standards.

4. Safe Place. Ensure the gardens team work in a safe, secure and compliant environment including appropriate use of PPE, and that all garden machinery is properly serviced and maintained at all times and is safe to use.

5. Environment and Sustainability. Work within the Trust’s Environmental Policy to deliver sustainable gardening activities, including energy, water, peat and pesticide-use.

6. Education and Learning. Play a full part in the Trust’s wider learning activities including; research (e.g. into historical precedents and practical contemporary solutions), and interpretation (e.g. through the development and delivery of events such as introductory talks, guided tours or practical demonstrations, contribution to guide-books or leaflets, use of social media).

7. Finance and Project Management. Setting, phasing, monitoring, pro-active and re-active adjustments of allocated budgets to ensure that the garden’s finances are sustainable within the context of the wider Trust operational budgets.

8. Production Horticulture. There is a fast growing local grower and producer community with farmers markets and events planned for the future. Expanding food production activities will be a key task and so the Head Gardener should be a keen ‘foodie’.

9. Customer Service. Ensuring a high standard of customer service and an outstanding visitor experience to members of the public of all ages and abilities.

10. Events. Participate and contribute to the programme of commercial events run within the wider property.

Required Qualifications, Skills, Experience & Knowledge

Excellent plant knowledge and a genuine passion for horticulture are essential, as are excellent time and staff management skills, a keen eye for detail, a good level of physical fitness, happy to work in all weather conditions and the willingness to lead by example. A good understanding and ability to use, manage and maintain of a wide range of specialist equipment and machinery is an advantage.

1. The successful candidate will hold a suitable formal professional qualification in horticulture/landscape management or equivalent with extensive practical experience in horticultural techniques.

2. Excellent plantsmanship (e.g. the identification, recording, labelling of individual plants and recognised collections; appropriate plant selections) is essential along with the ability to identify a wide range of plants, pests and diseases, together with knowledge of their requirements to thrive.

3. Experience of working in a historic garden open to the public is essential and an appreciation of Scottish garden history in a general context would be useful.

4. Excellent Leadership skills including coaching, team development, motivation and communication, and the ability to prioritise tasks and to work under pressure are a must.

5. To able to fulfil this role and to represent the Trust requires excellent written and verbal communication, public presentation and administrative skills, as is a high level of confidence in interacting and dealing with a wide range of people.

6. Will regularly use computerised finance system for the raising of Purchase Orders for the supply of goods and services so competency and self-sufficiency in use of IT (email, internet, word-processing, spreadsheets, databases) is required.

7. The post holder will be a Project Manager from time to time, with responsibility for delivering small projects so he/she will need the ability to design, plan and execute design and planting projects.

8. A good level of health and safety processes and procedures knowledge is important, competency in the operation and maintenance of garden machinery is needed too.

9. PA1 and PA6a spraying certificates are required and applicants must hold a full UK driving licence.

Due Diligence

The current duties of this job do require a criminal records (Disclosure Scotland) as well as PVG checks to be carried out.

The successful candidate will need to provide 3 referees at some point in the process.


A generous remuneration package is provided for the successful candidate and includes pension, holiday allowance and private health cover. It is anticipated that the post holder will live on the island so accommodation is available at a concessionary rent.


If this Head Gardener vacancy is of interest, please apply or contact with a c.v. and covering letter of no more than 2 pages each to Fiona Hardie at

Closing date is Monday 6 January, 2020.

Interviews are likely to take place on Bute end January/early February.

Vacancies > Head Gardener