Garden Centre Manager Peter Ilott

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I grew up on a farm, and when I finished school I was well disposed to working in an environment that had something to do with nature. I was interested in landscape architecture and engineering but, not wanting to burden my parents, opted for a horticultural apprenticeship. That way I gained work experience while being educated and was able to earn an income as well.

It was part of a Group Apprenticeship Scheme. I would move from one employer to another while studying horticulture at the local TAFE. By the time I had completed my apprenticeship, I was much more interested in plants than in actual landscaping. I had had some experience with small gardens and liked the blending of height, form and colour of plants. However, a lot of the landscaping I had been exposed to was used as a 'quick fix' to a setting rather than as a well-designed and laid-out plan.

I was happy when I became an employee of the Bendigo City Council. They had four sections (Street Trees, Park Maintenance, Conservatory and Nursery) and a lovely main park called Roslyn Park. I progressed well there, and for two years I was Leading Hand and second in charge. I enjoyed the responsibility and the chance to show initiative. I was responsible for fifteen workers, and my skills as a gardener and people manager were developing well.

In the mid-nineties, the State Government began a series of Council Amalgamations, and working for the Council became unpredictable. I was offered a job to develop a nursery in a local retailer's business, Home Hardware, and I accepted that. To set up the business proved a great, interesting challenge; but the time demands of running the business started to take over my life. I learnt a great deal about mixing with people, both customers and work colleagues. However, in the end I resigned and went to work in my family's removalist business for the next few years.

In 1999, I moved to Melbourne and looked for work in the retail gardening trade. There were plenty of opportunities, and I worked in two places initially. At one of those, Penhalluriack's Garden Centre, my timing was just right, and I was given plenty of responsibilities very quickly. I settled in well, and, while the manager was on maternity leave, I was asked to manage the centre. Now, the managing position has just been made permanent. I'm looking forward to the combination of responsibility, initiative and people contact that it offers.

I feel now, fifteen years into my working life, that I have a good knowledge base in a sound and growing industry. I'm in touch with the earth, with the people I deal with at work and with myself. I like the flow of the day in gardening. There is plenty of outdoors, retailing gives me good people contact, and each day offers plenty of variety.

It's a good life, gardening.