Roots into Horticulture

Roots into Horticulture

Tues 2 Aug 2pm

Two Sisters’ Theatre

Join us for an afternoon of talks and discussion with a range of guest speakers within horticulture, set within the grounds of historic Hever Castle & Gardens.

Hear from a respected panel of experts who will show you how to take the right steps forward and establish a successful career in horticulture. Learn about a wide range of career paths within this industry and meet horticulture professionals who can help galvanise your career.

The event also presents a great opportunity for networking for horticulture students,  professionals and anyone considering a move into the sector.

2pm – 4.30pm with a 20 minute interval. Refreshments including a Pimm’s bar.

This is a not for profit event – all profits will be split between DEC for Ukraine, and Thrive, the horticulture charity.

List of Guest Speakers:

Neil Miller, Head Gardener Hever Castle

Philip Oostenbrink, Author and Head Gardener, Walmer Castle

Stephen Harmer, Head Gardener and Historian, Tonbridge School

Caroline Halfpenny, RHS Course Lecturer, Hever Castle

Simon Sutcliffe, Director, How Green Nursery

Kristina Clode, Garden Designer

Camellia Taylor, Garden Designer

Rhiannedd Brooke, Garden Designer

Caroline Halfpenny

RHS Course lecturer

Stephen Harmer

Head Gardener, Tonbridge School

Neil Miller

Head Gardener, Hever Castle & Gardens

Hailing from an insurance brokerage background, Hever Castle Head Gardener Neil Miller proves that no matter what life path you are on, it’s never too late to chase your dream job.

Having been made redundant from his city job in the early nineties, Neil was in a state of limbo until he decided to grasp this unique opportunity and turn his passion for gardening into a career. Using his redundancy pay out, Neil gained the formal qualifications he needed and then started up his own gardening business.

Neil’s interest in horticulture started when he was just five years old when he would help his grandfather in the garden. His parents gave him a little patch to plant a potato and from there his passion blossomed.

After successfully running his own business for six years, an unusually wet summer meant times were tough and business was slow. In a definite instance of being in the right place at the right time, Neil was having a look around the gardens at Hever Castle and got chatting with the head gardener. He successfully landed a gardening job in February 2002 and then worked his way through the ranks to become Head Gardener in 2006.

Neil leads a varied team of gardeners, ranging from trainees to experienced professionals, who work hard to maintain Hever Castle’s award winning gardens. Neil can also regularly be found giving talks to local gardening groups and loves sharing his enthusiasm and knowledge with others.

Philip Oostenbrink

Head Gardener, Walmer Castle & Gardens

Author, The Jungle Garden

Philip was interested in plants from a very young age, so a career in Horticulture was the logical choice. After finishing his horticultural qualifications in the Netherlands he became a teacher of Horticulture at a secondary school, where he worked for 8 years.

Philip moved to the UK in 2008, and started a gardening business, before making the move in 2011 to Hadlow College where he became deputy Head Gardener. In 2015 he was offered the job as Head Gardener at Canterbury Cathedral which combined his passion for gardens and history.

After over five years there, he moved to take up the position of Head Gardener at Walmer Castle and Gardens where he remains to date. One of his main projects currently is creating a jungle garden in the dry moat.

Apart from his gardening work, Philip is a Horticultural speaker and also holds four National Plant Collections, including one of Aspidistra. He is a committee member of plant trials for the RHS and has recently published a book, The Jungle Garden.

Kristina Clode

Garden Designer

Kristina has been designing gardens for over 21 years, originally training at Capel Manor College in 2001/2 and working as a planting designer & gardener in London. After completing an MA in Garden History at Birkbeck University in 2007, she set up Kristina Clode Garden Design in 2010 after moving to East Sussex. In 2021 she won the Judges’ and Design for the Environment SGD Awards for Sedlescombe School Sensory Garden. Kristina also opens her own flower filled, wildlife friendly garden annually for the National Garden Scheme.

Stephen Harmer

Head Gardener, Tonbridge School

Stephen has spent his working life in Horticulture, having taught at Hadlow College and Plumpton College, as well as delivering the Garden History programme for University of Greenwich students at Hadlow College.

Stephen has also taught Garden History at RHS Wisley for the RHS. He has a Masters degree in Garden History and his dissertation was turned into a book, La Chaire, The Story of Jersey’s Lost Garden (published by Seaflower).

In 2018 Stephen was appointed Head Gardener at Tonbridge School, which has five distinct gardens on site, regularly open for the NGS and other charity events. Stephen is currently overseeing a programme of revitalising and developing each of the gardens.

Rhiannedd Brooke

Garden designer

Rhiannedd established her garden design practice in Sevenoaks in 2020. Originally a public relations professional working in investment banking for nearly 25 years, in 2019 she retrained at the English Gardening School, Chelsea Physic Garden and gained a Diploma in Garden Design with Distinction. Rhiannedd also spent two years undertaking her RHS Level 2 diploma in horticulture.

Rhiannedd works with a team of landscapers, nurseries, lighting contractors and gardeners delivering projects across Kent and London.

According to Rhiannedd: ‘I have always had a passion for design, but really fell in love with gardening when I moved out of London for a new life in Sevenoaks. Since setting up my practice, what I have enjoyed most is the strong, collaborative relationships I have developed with my clients. Helping them realise their ambitions for their outdoor spaces and fall in love with gardening is the best part of the job.’

Caroline’s career in Horticulture stretches back over 25 years. Alongside running her own gardening business, and regularly speaking at gardening clubs across Kent, she currently works as one of the RHS Course lecturers at Hever Castle.

Caroline began her career in the Parks Department, eventually becoming Horticultural Officer, with responsibility for the Grounds Maintenance contracts and Allotments provision. She then went on to complete a degree in Landscape Management, and alongside this she began to teach, which sparked both an interest in education and the impact the landscape has on our mental well-being. Having just given birth to her son Josh, she was inspired to complete her dissertation on Environmental Education and its impact on ‘Early Years’ Learning.

Caroline then set up Garden Thyme, a local gardening and design business until she was persuaded to teach Countryside Management at Hadlow College. She went on to complete her PGCE and managed the L2 Diploma in Horticulture whilst also lecturing for both the RHS and Garden Design and Landscape Architecture degree programmes.

In the last few years the draw of the practical joy of gardening coupled with the freedom of self employment has taken Caroline on another path – which, in addition to being one of the most popular lecturers at Hever! has also included working on projects such as Forest Schools funded by the Lottery Heritage Fund, writing management plans for local authorities

and spending lots of time in her polytunnel with her trusty dog, Tye.

Simon Sutcliffe

How Green Nursery

Kristina Clode

Garden Designer

Camellia Taylor

Garden Designer

Established in 1982, our family run wholesale nursery occupies a five acre site, just 15 minutes from Junction 6 of the M25. We supply garden designers, landscapers, retailers, professional gardeners and historic gardens.


Reserved covered seating

Discounted Joint Theatre and Gardens ticket  
£29.30 Adult  

RHS students and staff
£10 – ID required on arrival

Guests are welcome to enjoy the gardens after the event until they close at 6pm.

Two Sisters’ Theatre

Our main theatre with allocated, covered seating in the Centre, East and West Tiers. There is additional uncovered seating in the Centre Tier.
A limited number of grass tickets are available for those who wish to keep away from our allocated seats. Please note the view from these areas may be restricted. Call the box office to book on 07379 488477.