The first problem that women faced was that traditional training arrangements were unsuitable, as apprentice garden boys dwelt in the garden bothy, a shack where groups of young males lived together. A female bothy did not appeal to the young, middle class girls entering gardening, for they aspired to dignity and comfort, so such conditions were unsuitable for women. Women therefore needed colleges dedicated to their training. The first such college was Swanley in Kent, established in 1889 and which began to take women in 1891, becoming women only in 1901. The first two female professional gardeners, Annie Gulvin and Alice Hutchings, who were employed at Kew Gardens, were Swanley graduates. But they suffered the problem that Kew was concerned that their loose dresses would damage plants, so they were allowed to garden in bloomers, but women in underwear attracted prurient attention, and so soon they were allowed to wear the same uniform as males: tweed jackets and breeches,caps and heavy boots. Heavy boots were considered vital for safety,even now when I took my RHS practical gardening examination, I had to have my footwear checked to see if it met safety standards.
But Swanley girls went to places, and in 1897 Annie Morrison and Lina Barker went to Edinburgh Royal Botanic Gardens and soon realized that Scotland needed its own school for women gardeners, so they established the Edinburgh school of Gardening for Women. Very soon afterwards Writtle College in the South of England went co-educational, accepting women students on gardening courses.
The Swanley girls were charged £80 a year for board, lodging and tuition, but they had to provide their own uniform, books, laundry and table napkins. Uniform was a warm tweed coat for winter and a lighter tunic for summer,blouses, stockings,belt and a felt or straw hat for summer.
There is also Lady Warwick, affectionately known as Daisy by her students. Daisy, a wealthy philanthropist committed to women's progress used her fortune to establish Lady Warwick Hostel at Reading College in Southern England, where the girls would stay in a place of safety where they would study at the college. It later moved to Studley Castle in the Midlands,where it taught its own courses and entered its students for the prestigious Royal Horticultural Society examinations.Lady Warwick eventually had to rein back her activities as she had used up much of her fortune and she stepped down from the college principal's role.
Glynde College, in Sussex, was founded by Lady Frances Wolseley, who was an enthusiastic agricultural reformer,among other good causes. It trained lady gardeners and produced Christabel Proctor,the head gardener at Girton,the then all female college in Cambridge. Not as successful as some of the others, this college closed in 1933.