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Jess from Hadleigh swaps retail for roses and ends up bagging national scholarship

News overview

A former retail expert has swapped fashion for flowers and bagged a national scholarship.

Jess Johnson, 29, who lives in Suffolk left school and started a career in retail.

Jess Johnson outside Suffolk Rural

She made a name for herself as a visual merchandiser where she was involved in creating window and stock displays.

Then like many, because of Covid, Jess was furloughed.

During this time, the 29-year-old from Hadleigh found the lure of the garden hard to resist and started to enjoy the therapeutic benefits of being outdoors.

Her love of gardening grew and she ended up applying and then gaining a job at Perry Wood Garden Centre in Sudbury as a plant area assistant.

Jess then decided she wanted to increase her knowledge and signed up and then started a Royal Horticultural Society level 2 course at Suffolk Rural College.

Jess Johnson inside a glasshouse at Suffolk Rural

Then at the turn of the year, Jess saw a Colegrave Seabrook Foundation advert asking people to apply for scholarships to support their future ambitions.

(The Colegrave Seabrook Foundation was set up in 1993 and is a charity that supports students studying horticulture:

The Hadleigh resident put herself forward for a Smart Garden Products Student Scholarship and she has just found out that she has received one of five national scholarships.

As a result of this news, she was given a cheque for £1500.00 and will be invited to the Smart Garden Products HQ in Peterborough for a two-day tour of this leading supplier of garden products in July 2024.

Jess said: “I was really proud to get this scholarship. To be one of five people to be chosen is an honour and a privilege. A massive thank you to the foundation and Smart Garden Products. I will use the money to help me progress with my learning and career. It has given me a massive boost and makes me think that by career changing, I did the right thing and I’m on the right path.”

In terms of advice for others about changing pathways mid-career Jess said: “If you have a passion for something then go for it.”

In relation to going back to college after a ten-year gap Jess said: “Most of the people on my course have come from different backgrounds and we all share a passion for horticulture. It’s nice being around like-minded individuals and Suffolk Rural staff have been very supportive.”

And on her future plans Jess added: “I love my job and the people I work for but my dream is to one day become a garden designer. And with garden design the Chelsea Flower Show is the pinnacle. So – watch this space.”

David Smith is a horticulture expert who works for Suffolk Rural. David said: “I’m delighted for Jess. She is a committed and dedicated student and she deserves this acknowledgement. We will continue to support her development and can’t wait to see how her career evolves.”

Posted 14 May 2024