A LOCAL gardener is to swap working on his neighbour’s weeds for tending to the pristine plants of America’s rich and famous.
Wayne Shepherd, 21, from Kirkliston, is to start an internship on Long Island with Summerhill Landscapes, which designs, constructs and maintains residential gardens in the ultra-wealthy Hamptons, Manhattan and beyond.
The company has some of the country’s richest homeowners on its books, and among the celebrities known to have homes in the Hamptons are Tiger Woods, Renee Zellweger, Sir Paul McCartney, pictured below, and fashion designer Calvin Klein.
The opportunity arose when Wayne signed up to The Ohio Program, run by Ohio State University, to give overseas youngsters the chance to widen their experience.
He said: “I first heard of the programme when I was in second year at Oatridge. At that time some greenkeeping students had gone over, but it wasn’t until fourth year that I spoke to my lecturer, George Gilchrist, and my foster mum, Kath, and they both said ‘go for it’.
“It’s a fantastic opportunity to learn about the way they do things over there.”
Wayne’s foster mother Kath Cuthell added: “Wayne has got his autograph book packed, he is so excited.”
The internship is designed to give Wayne the knowledge and skills to set up his own business.
Although leaving his family, friends and girlfriend behind will be difficult, Wayne – who has severe dyslexia – said the move should open up opportunities for them to travel too.
“I’ll be sharing a big house, so they can come and visit and maybe see some of the country. It’s not likely that I’ll be able to do a lot with them though – I’ve been told that I’ll be expected to work up to ten hours a day, six days a week.
“That doesn’t bother me because I like to work hard; I like getting my hands dirty and I love working outdoors. I’m really looking forward to learning about different plants and materials in a different climate.”
Landscaping has been Wayne’s passion since he was a secondary school pupil, when he would spend his time helping his foster parents and neighbours with their gardens.
He was just 15 and fed up with school when he turned up at Oatridge asking to start a horticultural course.
Ann Burns, horticultural team leader at Oatridge, said: “Wayne is a great lad and we all wish him very well.
He has pretty severe dyslexia, but would never say that it makes any difference. He did have a lot of support from tutors and invaluable help from his foster family, but it’s his personal passion for horticulture and his appetite for hard work that has got him this far.”
Wayne will fly out to America today and is expected to begin work on Monday. The internship will run until December.