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Lee McPherson – photo shoots to new roots

Lee McPhersonPhotographer-turned-gardener Lee McPherson jumped at the opportunity to increase his horticultural knowledge when his employer, East Lothian Council, offered him the chance to do a course in Parks, Gardens and Green Space.

The 49-year-old started working as a gardener with the council nine years ago after giving up his job as a photographer in London to move to Edinburgh with his wife.

“The photography was difficult, moving up and down to London, so I stopped,” he said. “I have always been interested in gardening so I found a seasonal job with East Lothian Council for six months in 2011, and then got a full-time job the following year.”

He spent one day a week at SRUC’s Oatridge campus studying for the Scottish Vocational Qualification over two years while continuing to do his day job.

His work involves planning, preparing and working with a small team to maintain high amenity areas in Haddington and surrounding villages, as well as being responsible for other shrub beds, sports pitches, litter picking and grass cutting. In addition, he works with volunteers in Haddington to get ready for the various national bloom competitions.

He said his course at SRUC, led by lecturer George Gilchrist, had inspired and taught him a lot about how to look at planting in different ways.

“The course has definitely opened my eyes to doing things differently and planning ahead,” he said. “It has also shown me how to help colleagues better – how to explain what is needed when out and about. I am teaching them new techniques and ways of looking at our high amenity areas, and getting them to think about and suggest things rather than telling them everything.”

His greatest achievement to date was being asked to present a 20-minute talk about his work at a Grow Careers Day at the Edinburgh Royal Botanic Garden. However, being nominated for Lantra’s Awards for Land-based and Aquaculture Skills (ALBAS) was ‘a massive surprise’ – and winning would possibly top the talk.

Lee McPherson“I would love to do more talks on my career and my work with East Lothian Council in the future,” he said. “I hope to keep working my way up the career ladder and there may also be an opportunity to become involved in a local community garden in Edinburgh.

“I once opened my garden to the public, so I aim to do that again at some point in the future. I am also looking into studying Therapeutic Gardening on a part-time basis, if I can find a course and I have the time, as I really believe that being and working outside could be helping so many people with different problems and conditions.”

In the meantime, he is looking forward to representing East Lothian Council and SRUC at the ALBAS.

“It proves that you should never be afraid of change, always challenge yourself and always ask questions,” he said. “I can’t wait to see what the next nine years bring.”


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