Macclesfield Express - - LEISURE - HAN­NAH STEPHEN­SON

NOT sure how to prune prop­erly? Want a be­gin­ner’s guide to veg­etable grow­ing? Fancy a new ca­reer as a gar­den de­signer?

What­ever your hor­ti­cul­tural bent, there is a course out there for you, from one-day taster cour­ses to de­grees and recog­nised hor­ti­cul­tural qual­i­fi­ca­tions. But where do you start?

If you are look­ing for a change of ca­reer, you may opt for an of­fi­cially recog­nised RHS course which can give you a sig­nif­i­cant qual­i­fi­ca­tion af­ter two or three years.

Al­ter­na­tively, you may opt for a day here, a day there work­ing on a par­tic­u­lar skill which you want to mas­ter in your own gar­den, such as prop­a­gat­ing, prun­ing, wildlife gar­den­ing or plant­ing with peren­ni­als. And you may learn as much from fel­low stu­dents as you do from the lec­tur­ers.

Andy McIn­doe, gar­den de­sign con­sul­tant, win­ner of 25 con­sec­u­tive gold medals at Chelsea Flower Show and tu­tor at MyGar­denS­chool (www. learn­ing­with­ex­ gar­den­ing), the world’s first on­line gar­den school, ex­plains: “Peo­ple have to think about the time com­mit­ment.

“With on­line cour­ses peo­ple need to be re­ally com­mit­ted to it and they have to put the effort in and have to re­late it very much to what they want to get out of it.

“Some­times peo­ple think they are just go­ing to watch the video or turn up to a weekly lec­ture, think­ing it’s go­ing to give them all they want. But it’s a huge sub­ject and the chances re­al­is­ti­cally of it cov­er­ing what you’ve got in mind are quite re­mote.”

Study­ing on a com­puter has its place, but there’s no sub­sti­tute for dig­ging in and get­ting your hands dirty, says McIn­doe, who gives his stu­dents prac­ti­cal as­sign­ments af­ter each lec­ture.

“I en­cour­age them to take pic­tures of a par­tic­u­lar sit­u­a­tion and tell me how they are go­ing to deal with it, iden­tify plant ma­te­rial or other as­pects of hor­ti­cul­ture. If it’s a trees course, I tell them to pick a sit­u­a­tion, pick a tree for it, tell me what they are go­ing to plant with it and we build on the prac­ti­cal­i­ties of that and the de­sign el­e­ment as to how they are go­ing to use that as part of a plant­ing scheme.”

Those think­ing about a ca­reer in hor­ti­cul­ture should choose their cour­ses care­fully and their choice may de­pend on whether they are go­ing to be em­ployed or self­em­ployed, he says.

“Do­ing an RHS course is fan­tas­tic and if you can get a job as a trainee on a pri­vate es­tate or spe­cial­ist nurs­ery that’s great, but it’s all about ap­pli­ca­tion. You have to work for rel­a­tively lit­tle for a while to get the ex­pe­ri­ence.

“Plant knowl­edge is key, whether you are do­ing pro­duc­tive or or­na­men­tal hor­ti­cul­ture.”

“There’s no sub­sti­tute for prac­ti­cal ex­pe­ri­ence,” he con­tin­ues. “I think that’s vi­tal. The idea that some­body’s go­ing to read a book or watch a lec­ture and think that’s go­ing to teach them how to do some­thing is un­re­al­is­tic.

“You need some­one to take you out there and do prac­ti­cal stuff. That is so im­por­tant, whether you’re plant­ing or em­bark­ing on gar­den de­sign. What it comes down to is be­ing able to cope with the prac­ti­cal­i­ties of the real sit­u­a­tion.”

He laments that there are not enough hor­ti­cul­tural ap­pren­tice­ships, al­though the or­gan­i­sa­tion Grow (www.grow­ca­ pro­vides ad­vice on ap­pren­tice­ships and ca­reers in hor­ti­cul­ture.

There are 93 ap­proved study cen­tres run­ning RHS cour­ses that lead to qual­i­fi­ca­tions, many of which of­fer prac­ti­cal teach­ing.

Po­ten­tial stu­dents want­ing fur­ther in­for­ma­tion and a full list of all the cen­tres of­fer­ing RHS cour­ses can be found at ed­u­ca­tion-learning/ qual­i­fi­ca­tions-and­train­ing/rhs-qual­i­fi­ca­tions

McIn­doe says that if you are af­ter a de­gree in hor­ti­cul­ture, Per­shore Col­lege – the na­tional cen­tre for hor­ti­cul­ture – is still an in­dus­try leader (www.war­wick­ uk).

A va­ri­ety of shorter work­shops are also run by the Na­tional Trust (www. na­tion­al­, while the Work­ers’ Ed­u­ca­tional As­so­ci­a­tion ( of­fers a num­ber of cour­ses on a wide range of as­pects of gar­den­ing at cen­tres through­out the coun­try.

All man­ner of cour­ses are out there for help in

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