Ruth uses a traineeship to grow her career at BBG

“I am developing new and transferrable skills during my traineeship. It is interesting and challenging and has opened up a whole new world for me.” Ruth Davis, Trainee, Birmingham Botanical Gardens

A 12-month traineeship at Birmingham Botanical Gardens (BBG) is not only helping Ruth Davis discover a new career path, but also care for and maintain BBG’s National Collection of Cyclamen.

In addition to caring for the Cyclamen located throughout the grounds and in a number of the glasshouses at BBG, it is Ruth’s role to catalogue this nationally significant collection.

Ruth’s post as Cyclamen trainee is vital in helping BBG maintain the health of the collection, as well as putting it on display for the first time in around 10 years.

Ruth uses a traineeship to grow her career at BBG
(Image: Ruth arranging the Cyclamen display in the Mediterranean House). 


Prior to joining BBG in a full time role as a trainee, Ruth had a long association with the Gardens, having been a regular visitor since childhood, and then becoming a volunteer in 2018.

It was during a career break from the Arts, that Ruth began working as a volunteer at BBG, initially to specifically look after the collection of carnivorous plants. This soon led to working in various other areas of the gardens. It was while volunteering that she became aware of the traineeship.

“I love the outdoors, particularly big open spaces. It was through my volunteering at BBG, that I was able to see an opportunity for a late career change,” explained Ruth.

Ruth uses a traineeship to grow her career at BBG
(Image: Cyclamen photo by Ruth, for the @cyclamensociety Instagram page)

Traineeship overview

This is the first time that BBG has had a trainee appointed to look after its Cyclamen Collection. BBG’s Cyclamen Collection was awarded National Collection status in 2016. It is an extensive and important collection as it is used both for research as well as providing colourful blooms throughout the year within BBG’s gardens.

Having National Collection status opened the doors for BBG to not only preserve rare species, but also to increase skills locally in horticulture and showcase the collection in a dedicated display.

Emily Hazell, Director of Horticulture at Birmingham Botanical Gardens, explained: I am passionate about training and for BBG to become a learning organisation in general. Creating a traineeship as part of our permanent structure not only aligns us with the Botanic Gardens Conservation International (BGCI) accreditation targets but also develops people within the organisation.

“The traineeship has really flourished under supervision of Bethan Collerton, our Alpine Senior Horticulturist. Bethan joined our team end of September and is truly engaging with Ruth’s personal development as a trainee.”

Ruth uses a traineeship to grow her career at BBG
(Image: Ruth driving the tractor, pulling a a trailer full of Cyclamen ready to go on display in the Mediterranean Glasshouse, and Bethan assisting with the decant.)

Ruth is supported in her paid traineeship by two volunteers from the Cyclamen Society who help her in her work to look after the extensive collection. In turn, she is working with a number of volunteers who are also helping to care for the Cyclamen Collection at BBG.

She said: “I have welcomed the opportunity for me to supervise volunteers. They have been invaluable in helping me, particularly with time sensitive tasks like clearing the Azalea Bank in time for the opening night of the popular Luminate Trail in November.”

A partnership approach

Ruth’s traineeship is the first of its kind in the UK and jointly funded by BBG and the Cyclamen Society, an international specialist plant society based in the UK.

The Society, which is a registered charity, was established in 1977 and exists to encourage cultivation and conservation, and to extend knowledge of the genus Cyclamen and its species, forms, and cultivars. It currently numbers 1000 members internationally.

Through the traineeship, the Cyclamen Society aims to broaden its audiences.

BBG’s goals for the collection align with those of the Cyclamen Society’s educational remit and desire to raise the profile of the genus Cyclamen and the need to develop new audiences. The creation of a Cyclamen traineeship was identified by both BBG and the Cyclamen Society as an opportunity to work in partnership to achieve their respective goals.

Ruth added: “The traineeship and the work I am doing as part of it, is a very big responsibility and one that I hope I am doing justice to for both Birmingham Botanical Gardens and the Cyclamen Society.”

Ruth uses a traineeship to grow her career at BBG
(Image: Ruth at the Cyclamen Show at BBG, 2023.)

Looking to the future

Ruth’s traineeship will continue to be focussed on maintaining and improving the collection of Cyclamen at BBG, while also enhancing the visitor experience by showcasing this special collection.

“There are currently Cyclamen in the Mediterranean and Alpine glasshouses as well as throughout the grounds, but part of the plan is to develop dedicated areas of Cyclamen in different parts of the gardens. I also plan to relocate some of the existing outdoor Cyclamen and plant out a number of the Cyclamen currently housed in the nursery and currently not accessible to the public,” she explained.

Ruth uses a traineeship to grow her career at BBG
(Image: Ruth changing the display in the Alpine Glasshouse.)

Beyond her traineeship with BBG, Ruth said: “The traineeship has given me so many transferrable skills, including learning how to drive a tractor. While I have yet to complete it, I can see, already, how I will be able to bring my developing skills to a future career in the heritage and horticultural sectors.”

Throughout the traineeship Ruth is also to helping increase the awareness and importance of the Cyclamen Society through social media.

Follow the Cyclamen Society’s Instagram page @cyclamensociety to follow and support Ruth’s journey and learn more about Cyclamen.

Ruth uses a traineeship to grow her career at BBG
(Image: Cyclamen photo by Ruth, for the @cyclamensociety Instagram page)

BBG’s National Cyclamen Collection will be on display in the Mediterranean Glasshouse from 10th – 18th February 2024.

Ruth will be delivering drop-in talks at the Gardens, where she will be sharing fascinating insights into the history, cultivation, and significance of Cyclamen within the botanical world from 14th – 18th February 2024.

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