Reaseheath RHS student Jill Wood is off to further her studies at the historic Gardens of Alcatraz in California after winning a prestigious RHS Roper bursary.

The mother-of-four and former classroom assistant has always been interested in plant science and gained a BSc Science degree with the Open University while at home in Winsford looking after her children. She has found returning to college has rekindled this passion.

Jill has completed her RHS Level 2 in Horticulture (theory and practical) and her Level 3 (theory) with us and is currently a student on our RHS Level 3 practical course.

She studies at college one day a week and combines this with three days each week volunteering at Little Moreton Hall, a Tudor National Trust property near Congleton.  She is also a monthly volunteer in the tropical glasshouses of the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, where she has built up good relations with the academic staff.   Previously she has volunteered in the historic gardens at Dunham Massey and Arley Hall.

Particularly interested in propagating and managing native heritage species, Jill has been helping to develop a new garden at Little Moreton Hall. Mentored by Moreton’s gardener Natalie Angus, she is also working towards her Heritage Skills Passport, a National Trust qualification.

During her research Jill became fascinated by the Gardens of Alcatraz in San Francisco, which were built in the mid 1800s by inmates of the notorious prison.  The little known gardens, which are part of a National Park and open to the public, are currently being renovated to preserve their history and cultural significance.

During her ten days in California in May, Jill plans to join the volunteer team in the gardens and will study other attractions in the National Park including a wild flower headland and a coastal redwood forest. She will also visit the San Francisco Botanical Gardens to talk with staff about drought tolerant plants and how native species can prevent the spread of wildfire.

Jill, who will use her bursary to help pay for travel and accommodation costs, was supported in her application by RHS lecturers Harry Delaney and Anne Harrison, and by Natalie Angus.

She said: “Harry and Anne have been a massive inspiration to me.  I really enjoy studying at Reaseheath and the RHS courses have encouraged me to take my scientific interest in plants further. I’d like to encourage other people who might be out there, perhaps having stayed at home to look after their family like me, to follow their dreams.  Be brave, take the step. You don’t know where it may take you.”

Anne Harrison said: “Jill is an excellent and determined student who will go far. She has increased her skills through volunteering and made the most of the contacts she’s gained. We’re delighted that she has been awarded this bursary and look forward to catching up with her adventures once she’s returned. This really proves that you can take gardening round the world!”

Caption: RHS student Jill Wood checking plants in Reaseheath’s glasshouses