Studies help garden centre worker’s horticulture career to grow

When long-time retail worker Linda Pugh landed a job at a garden centre in 2020, she decided to upskill by studying online for a New Zealand Certificate in Horticulture (General) (Level 3) from Open Polytechnic | Te Pūkenga.

Studies help garden centre worker’s horticulture career to grow

Linda was hired at Palmers Garden Centre St James in Hamilton, in September 2020, because of her 30 years of retail experience, rather than her horticulture knowledge.

That is when Linda decided it would be beneficial for her job and budding horticulture career, if she gained a formal qualification in the industry. So, Linda decided to enrol in the New Zealand Certificate in Horticulture (General) (Level 3) at Open Polytechnic in 2021.

“I really enjoyed doing the programme, I was fascinated about a lot of things to do with horticulture, that I had never thought of before and so I found it really interesting,” Linda says.

“Learning things like pests and diseases helps me at work a lot.”

“I can just help people out with problems they are having with their gardens. Identifying plants has been really valuable to learn about because we get asked a lot of that at work.”

According to Linda, a lot of the customers at Palmers are new gardeners, so it is great to be able to help them.

“It’s really great to see the light switch on for them and they come in and tell us about their successes and it’s really good to encourage other people to be interested in gardening as well and enjoy their surroundings,” Linda says.

Linda’s qualification has not only helped her serve customers, but she has recently gained a promotion and developed new skills.

Now she is Second-in-Charge (2IC) with duty manager responsibilities when her boss is away.

“I really enjoy being involved in all aspects of the garden centre,” Linda says.

“I’m doing a whole lot of new things and carrying that responsibility. It’s just been really good.”

Linda’s lifelong gardening passion

Linda is not completely new to gardening.

As a child, she was introduced to the hobby by her green-fingered father, although she only had a “basic level” of horticulture knowledge until she studied at Open Polytechnic.

She still enjoys growing fruit and vegetables at home.

“I am very interested in the edible garden,” Linda says.

“My garden is a low maintenance garden with not a lot of flowers. I enjoy looking after our shrubs and fruit trees.”

“We have got a lemon tree, mandarin and feijoa tree. I enjoy looking after all of them and helping them produce.”

From selling sheepskins to working outdoors selling plants

For Linda, working outdoors makes for a nice change, from her previous retail roles selling sheepskins and in the motel industry.

“It’s great to turn a corner and try something different,” Linda says.

“We had just moved and the Palmers Garden Centre that I got a job at is very close to home. I enjoy being outdoors and being hands on, so all of those things fitted really. I was very fortunate that it fell into place.”

“It’s worthwhile doing those sorts of things as you journey through life. It puts a whole new perspective on things and keeps things interesting.”

Linda’s job at Palmers allowed her to study while she worked, which has helped her put theory into practice.

Palmers continues to support its workers to keep learning and upskilling. Linda even gained her forklift licence through on-the-job training.

It was also supportive of Linda when she was studying towards her New Zealand Certificate in Horticulture from Open Polytechnic.

“At work we are always learning things from suppliers,” Linda says.

“They usually put together bits and pieces for us to study on their products, so it is a really supportive learning environment.”

Studying with Open Polytechnic

When it came time to enrol at Open Polytechnic in 2021, Linda was unsure if her computer skills were good enough for online study.

Thanks to the friendly staff at Open Polytechnic, her fears were quickly put to ease.

“Signing up, it was really hard for me, because I am not very computer savvy and I guess that was the most challenging thing for me,” Linda says.

“They had a student mentor who called me and talked me through all the steps I needed to take, and I found there were a lot of notes that I could read through to help me feel confident in that side of things.”

“I was really quite nervous about being able to do it, but it turned out being a lot easier than I thought it was going to be.”

Linda thinks that if you are studying a subject you are interested in, it makes learning fun.

“It definitely wasn’t a chore for me, I couldn’t wait to log in and see what the next module was,” she says.

She found being an ākonga (learner) at Open Polytechnic a rewarding experience.

“For a person like me, that left school and didn’t go onto any tertiary qualification, when I was younger, I am so proud to be able to say that I now have a tertiary qualification and I think it is really worthwhile going ahead and doing it,” Linda says.

I was really quite nervous about being able to do it, but it turned out being a lot easier than I thought it was going to be.