Palace Young Apprentice following in the steps of Scone’s famous plant hunter

Kieran Bruce, a budding young apprentice gardener from Craigie in Perth, has been awarded an exclusive gardening apprenticeship place through Rural Skills Scotland Modern Apprenticeship scheme at Scone Palace Estate. The prestigious apprenticeship sets young Kieran on a career path that was also the starting point for one of Scotland’s most famous plant hunters, David Douglas, best known for his namesake the Douglas Fir, who also started work as an apprentice to the head gardener at Scone Palace in the early 1800s.

Brian Cunningham, Head Gardener at Scone Palace and a regular presenter on BBC’s Beechgrove Garden, recruited Kieran to help out on the estate this summer and was so impressed with his interest in gardening that he approached Scone Palace’s CEO with a mission to help Kieran stay.

Brian commented: “Kieran has been brilliant. He actually trained as a joiner but really enjoys gardening and we didn’t want to lose him. I started my career in gardening as an apprentice and I wanted us to do our bit for the community and horticulture by inspiring and developing the next generation. I had a chat with our CEO and we decided that the Rural Skills Scotland Apprentice Scheme was a good way to keep Kieran and to help him develop his trade. We had a relationship already with Rural Skills Scotland so I got in touch with them to ask about their modern apprenticeship scheme.”

Kieran started his formal apprenticeship this month and has already been hard at work, looking after Scone Palace Estates 100 acres of the designed landscape around the palace on the 26,000 acre estate. Kieran’s historic apprenticeship is now something he’ll always have in common with one of the world’s most famous botanists and plant hunters, David Douglas, who worked for seven years as an apprentice to William Beattie, then head gardener at Scone Palace. Douglas subsequently led several plant hunting expeditions to the North Americas and is credited for introducing a number of species into the country, including the Douglas Fir, and transforming the Great British landscape.

Kieran commented:

“Brian and Rural Skills Scotland have given me a real opportunity to gain qualifications and learn new things and I’m really enjoying it. I like doing landscape gardening, which I’d like to pursue, but I’m putting in the groundwork first so I’ve been weeding, strimming, mowing and also looking after the Palace’s Kitchen Garden – planting vegetables and digging out paths for the some of the new development works in the gardens.  The best part is seeing the gardens change and knowing you helped that happen. It’s a really interesting place to work and the gardens are steeped in history – it’s cool to know that so much of the landscape we take for granted is because of someone who was also a gardener’s apprentice at Scone Palace!”

Brian commented: “Kieran has a good eye for detail and we’ve been smartening the Kitchen Garden this summer. Kieran has been producing wooden edged beds and metal edging in the Walled Garden. All the detail, intricate measurements and level of accuracy required, is impressive. He takes a lot of pride in what he does and sees it through. We have some old trees that came down in storms over the last couple of years and Kieran is going to turn them into benches for the gardens.”

More information on Scone Palace is at