Yesterday I received my Level 2 Certificate in Horticulture from the RHS in the post. I found out I passed my exams a couple of months ago but having the physical certificate makes it all the more satisfying – the cherry on the cake, if you like.
Over the past couple of months I’ve had moments of concern that I’m no longer learning about horticulture. I’m not sitting at my desk for hours on end with my head in my RHS notes, dipping in and out of past papers and asking my online tutor questions via the Propagate learning portal.
However the more I think about it, the more I realise I am continuing to learn about plants and horticulture every day. And actually, I’m beginning to think that learning on the job is far more varied, rewarding and beneficial than being stuck indoors with a laptop and a pile of books.
On that note I thought I’d share a few of the ways I’m continuing to learn, without the structure of an official course to help me – in the hope that it helps anyone else out there who is eager to improve their gardening knowledge.
Learning new plants, names and features
When I’m out at work I try to take a photograph of a plant or tree that I’m unfamiliar with at least once a week. When I get home I look it up online or in a Scottish gardening book (Try Ken Cox – Gardening Plants for Scotland) and try and learn the name and some of its features. This week it was cotton lavender – i saw it’s silvery leaves and yellow flowers in a local garden and once I smelled the leaves I had to find out what it was. I was captivated. One to add to the repertoire.
Learn from the experts
Every week I try to watch at least one gardening programme on tv – either Monty Don on BBC’s Gardeners World or Scotland’s equivalent – The Beechgrove Garden. It’s always interesting to see what the experts are doing in the garden at this time of year, and to get their inspiration for garden designs and plant ideas. I also subscribe to BBC Gardeners World magazine, so every month I receive a copy through my door. I tend to browse through it, then keep the articles that I think will come in handy at a future date. In this edition, it was advice on fragrant roses, and also how to take effective cuttings – I’ll add them to my gardening file.
Create a gardening community
The best gardening advice I’ve learned is from other gardeners – friends, family and fellow allotmenters. If you want to succeed at gardening, surround yourself with others who appreciate the outdoors and have knowledge to share, and preferably years of experience too. If you don’t have an allotment or are struggling to find like-minded people nearby, then look up your local gardening club, or try setting up your own.
Last year was my first year at the Chelsea Flower Show and I loved every minute of it – the show gardens were my favourite part, but getting to meet the growers and ask them questions about their plants was fascinating. As a gardener, it’s important to see what the latest trends are and how plant science is evolving.
This year I went to Gardening Scotland from 3-5 June at Ingliston, and as well as being really inspired by the innovative show gardens, there was so much free advice on offer through the RHS and the Caley – well worth a visit. This year, the Ayr Flower show is still to come – taking place from 5-7 August at Rozelle Park. For more information, visit the website.
The internet is full of gardening inspiration – it can be hard to know where to start. I have a Twitter and Pinterest account and I follow people like the Skinny Jeans Gardeners, Monty Don and Kew Gardens for top tips and great photos.
Those are the main things I do to keep learning. I also garden, a lot, which is something I really missed doing when I had my head stuck in the books!
I’d love to hear what you do to keep you gardening brain alive – let me know by commenting below, or send me a facebook message or tweet.