A horticulture student who hopes to become a garden designer one day is thrilled after scooping a national scholarship.

Jess Johnson, 29, of Hadleigh, joined the retail trade on leaving school and became a visual merchandiser involved in creating window and stock displays.

But after she was furloughed during the pandemic she began to develop a love of gardening and was taken on by Perry Wood Garden Centre in Sudbury as a plant area assistant.

She was keen to develop her skills and joined Suffolk Rural College at Otley - the land-based arm of Suffolk New College in Ipswich.

So 10 years after she left formal education as a teenager she is enrolled on its Royal Horticultural Society level 2 course.

She applied to the Colegrave Seabrook Foundation - a charity which supports horticulture students -  to support her ambitions.

She has now been awarded a Smart Garden Products Student Scholarship - one of just five national scholarships on offer.

As well as a £1,500 bursary, she is invited to the headquarters of Smart Garden Products - a garden products supplier in Peterborough - for a two-day tour in July.

“I was really proud to get this scholarship," she said.

"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.”

She advised others interested in changing careers to give it a go.

She is enjoying her course and her day job at the garden centre - but one day she would like to design gardens, she 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,” she said.

“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.”

Suffolk Rural horticulture expert David Smith 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.”