Sunday, September 06, 2015

My Garden School week 1: Act like a rabbit

It's the first week of the My Garden School course I introduced here. I thought I'd write a little about the structure of the course so far, and some of what I've learnt.

The home page of the classroom has a friendly message board where students and tutor (in this case, Noel Kingsbury) can interact. We've all been busy introducing ourselves and our gardens. Whilst most of the students are from the UK, with it being an online course, we could be from anywhere. One student is from Uruguay, so it will be interesting seeing her take on herbaceous borders.

The lesson is a video, supported by a clear handout which reinforces the video information, making it easy to refer back to. And, in true back-to-school style, there's also homework to complete. You have 7-10 days to do this, and upload it online for critiquing by tutor and other students. I've nearly completed my first assignment - I just need to find one more example of a spreading perennial to photograph and talk about and then I can submit.

So, what have I learnt so far? Well, Noel has encouraged us to get down on our hands and knees for a rabbit's eye view of our borders. We've been looking to see whether or how perennials spread, and if the do spread, are they guerrillas or through phalanx style. These facts can help you understand how they'll grow and spread in your garden  - are they going to take over, or be relatively well behaved? I've learnt about cespitose grasses - those beautiful dome-forming grasses that look so elegant. What use is this information to the gardener? It's already helping me understand how different plants compete or grow together happily, and why some plants get swamped in a border whilst others can hold their own, or even take over. It'll even give you an indication of how long the perennial will normally live.

Roll on week 2 - homework has never been so much fun!

(Not my garden: a photo of grasses and Achillea at RHS Harlow Carr).

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