Sunday, September 12, 2010

“Cultivate a hobby – it gives a fine pleasure to life”*

I love learning. This is a good thing, as I have a job which involves learning, and then passing on that learning in easily digestible chunks (if I’m doing it right). I’ve always loved learning. When the nights started to draw in, and mornings started to get a little bit chillier, I was pleased to be able to climb back into my uniform and go back to school. I realise that I’m lucky to have had an enjoyable learning experience throughout my life.

And so I carry on learning. The climbing back into school uniform is no longer required, but this week sees my return to college. I’ve completed half of the RHS Level 2 Certificate (the old style qualification) and return to college to complete the other half – the ‘first’ part. I really enjoyed the part I’ve just completed, which covered :

  • The Root Environment and Plant Nutrition (Flora)
  • Protected Cultivation
  • Plant Selection, Establishment and Maintenance
  • Plant Health Problems
  • It’s a theory-based qualification, but the tutors do a great deal to make it relevant to the students, and made the whole experience really enjoyable. My main triumphs after studying this half are a lawn that actually looks rather good for once (and will hopefully look even better after this autumn’s scarification, aeration, top dressing and feed), and a better understanding (and recognition) of pests and diseases.

    This semester’s topics see us studying:

  • The Plant Kingdom
  • Plant Propagation (Flora)
  • Outdoor Food Production
  • Garden Planning
  • and I’m really looking forward to propagation, as I’m not very good at this. I have to admit that I studied one year of undergraduate Botany as part of my Zoology degree, so am hoping that I might have a bit of a head start on the Plant Kingdom unit, but I’ve forgotten it all, except for some esoteric facts about plant evolution around the Cretaceous period. Probably not of much use.

    I enjoy learning theory and facts (although SomeBeans probably enjoys it less so – I think by the end of the revision session and me reciting plant names at him, he could also have passed the exam). I am less good at practical things, which is why I’m looking forward with more trepidation to a new course I’m starting tomorrow – Advanced Certificate in Garden Design. I did do a 10 week ‘leisure course’ on garden design last September and thought I’d like to take it a bit further this year. I have no illusions – I don’t have the imagination or artistic flair to take garden design further, to a career, and there are plenty of designers around without me trying to make a living at it. But  if I can improve my own garden, make useful suggestions to improve areas of my family’s gardens, and have a better understanding of what makes a good design so that I can more critically look at other gardens, then that will be enough for me. I’d like to be able to understand what history lies written in gardens, why some designs work, and why others don’t. I’m quite nervous – I love art, but had to give it up at school as I couldn’t study both art and physics. I'm not sure I’ll be very good at accurate measurements, nor at designing something that will look good and be practical. We shall see.

    And so it is back to school. And I’m very excited.


    * Title quote is from Arthur K Bulley, creator of Ness Botanic Gardens.


    Michelle Wheeler said...

    Good luck,the first part was my favourite.My worst area was design and measurement,though thanks to my lecturers I can actually measure up properly now. Not that I do in my garden,but I know if I need to I could. I don't know about you but the RHS 2 course has made me very organised in my head about how I garden.Let's hope level 3 makes me actually apply this knowledge :) You will sail through it.

    HappyMouffetard said...

    Thanks Michelle. I'm not sure I'm more organised in my head, but maybe a *bit* less haphazard and do now think about why I'm doing something. Enjoy your level 3!

    Frugilegus said...

    Great post - and exactly how I feel. I started studying again this year (biodiversity and conservation) and am having so much more fun this time round. Good luck with the next bit of your course.

    Karen - An Artist's Garden said...

    Well done for completing the first half - and I hope you enjoy the next part and I look forward to hearing about your progress

    Plant Mad Nige said...

    The best of luck on Semester - are they really calling 'terms' 'semesters' these days? Time I had another rant on Americanisms.

    Propagation is right there at the 'deep heart's core' of gardening. It's such a thrill when you succeed, even when you haven't a clue where you'll plant the propagules..

    And as one who has actually managed to damp off leeks, I'm the first to admit that it isn't as easy as it looks.

    Happy propagating!


    Elizabeth Musgrave said...

    You are making me feel like having a go at the RHS course. I wondered about it, got distracted by writing and gardening and didn't do anything but I love the learning too and wonder how it would feel to learn this way rather than from my interminable (and doubtless too partial and speedy) reading. I am going away for a think.

    Anna said...

    Enjoy your studies HM. I only wish that Reaseheath was easier to travel to for non drivers otherwise I might be one of your classmates :)

    HappyMouffetard said...

    frugilegus - that sounds interesting - all the best!

    Karen - thanks!

    Nigel, whilst I would normally agree with the americanisation, I have to say that in this case term does not equal semester, so could be considered a useful term. In this case, Semester is half a year (Sept - Feb, or Feb - July). And thank you - I'm looking forward to becoming a slightly more confident propagator.

    Elizabeth - I have to say that I'm really enjoying it, but wouldn't want to appear too evangelical about it as it may not be to everyone's taste, as it is very theoretical, with few 'hands on' opportunities, although the tutors do their best within the syllabus.

    Anna - thank you. That would have been fun!

    My first garden design class was last night - the usual introducing yourselves, paperwork, list of equipment etc evening. Next week we look at the principles of design. We will have a 3000 word assignment on garden history to write in the next month or so, so I'll be sure to bore you all with details.