A CUMNOCK man has changed his life forever after discovering his love for gardening.

Kris Muir was unemployed and looking for work as a joiner when he stumbled across an innovative scheme designed to boost employment skills within Scotland’s hor ticulture industry.

He was training to be a joiner at Dumfries House when he switched and worked towards his Royal Horticultural Society certification.

He swapped his power tools for gardening tools while learning about plant identification, propagation, seed-sewing, and soil preparation.

Now he wishes he had unearthed his green thumb from a younger age and is applauding local schools who are encouraging more kids to find theirs.

Kris said: “The whole course took a year, I didn’t come to Dumfries House to do gardening and, initially, I wasn’t interested in it.

Cumnock Chronicle:

“I was amazed when I got into it, though. To look back now, I’ve learnt an awful lot.

“I was unemployed and came to the estate twice through the JobCentre and voluntarily after that.

“I have come so far. When I first came here, I was doing sustainable building with the joiners on the estate for a few months. The head of gardens said they needed a hand and I really enjoyed it.

“I feel as if I can go to a higher level with the amount of training with machines and practical skills I have gained. I feel privileged to be here and I’m only getting started. I volunteered here when the walled garden was being restored. It’s amazing to see it now and I’ve built up so much knowledge on the way.”

It is hoped that horticulture training at Dumfries House will help address a skills gap in Scotland, with employers currently experiencing difficulty in recruiting those with suitable practical skills. Many RHS-approved centres elsewhere in Scotland offer theory-based study, often completed online, whereas Dumfries House delivers RHS practical qualifications for staff and as part of a Level 1 practical programme for local secondary school pupils.

Kris said: “I wish I had completed my horticulture training when I was a lot younger, and I see the local school pupils of Auchinleck and Cumnock Academy having a great opportunity to start a professional career in horticulture at Dumfries House Gardens.”