Gardeners’ Question Time

PUBLISHED: 07:07 09 August 2015 | UPDATED: 07:07 09 August 2015

Andy Garland (centre) and panel

Andy Garland (centre) and panel

Manu Palomeque 07977074797

Radio Kent broadcaster and producer Andy Garland on completing his RHS Practical Horticulture course

I’m finished…

Well, to be absolutely accurate I’ve got one more session of my RHS Practical Horticulture course to go, but as that’s a final day field trip to Tom Hart-Dyke’s World Garden at Lullingstone Castle, I’m reasonably confident of completion.

What a joy the last year has been sharing gardening tasks with a fun group of like-minded individuals.

Everything from simple softwood cuttings, to new experiences propagating conifers (who knew that you need to use upright growth otherwise you get a prostrate growing plant!), pruning tree peonies and even shedding safety boots to paddle knee deep as we renovated an old pond; although I have to say the comparisons to Charlie Dimmock really hurt.

I’ve written before about the trials and tribulations of studying as a mature student. The advantage of this course run by Hadlow College was no exams, just continuous assessment of the laid-back variety. Oh and weekly plant-identification tasks, learning 10 to 15 plants which, although it sounds innocuous, felt a bit like pouring a quart into a pint pot as I struggled to balance work and family life.

But crucially, it was much more attractive than sitting exams which at this time of life fills me with dread. Not the old teenage fear of a fail, meaning life as we know it is over, but the worry of having to make time to hit the books in an already hectic schedule.

What this has taught me more than anything, is how to do things properly. Not in my usual guesstimating, amateur, fumbly, green-fingered, homespun kind of way, but solid horticultural discipline and technique.

Only using small amounts of rooting powder tipped out of the main pot, mist bench leaf cuttings, I’ve even sharpened my secateurs. This was really brilliant until they inadvertently fell out of my pocket and I think ended up being buried under a bed of canna lilies and pelargoniums.

It could have been much worse; fortuitously, I resisted the temptation to purchase a new posh pair at the start of the course.

Beautiful and very effective they may be, but the £50+ price tag was far from a snip and, as my BBC colleague Zac Daunt-Jones pointed out, “I’ve bought cars for less”.

So what happens next? Although the Practical Horticulture course gives me a certificate in its own right, it’s also part of a wider qualification, the rather grandly titled RHS Level 2 Diploma in the Principles and Practices of Horticulture.

However, to obtain that I need to add two other modules to my portfolio. These are the Principles of Garden Planning, Establishment and Maintenance and the Principles of Plant Growth Propagation and Development, each with two exams per module in February and June.

The latter coincides with my busiest time of the year (between Chelsea and the Kent County Show). Hmm…decisions, decisions.

And finally it’s farewell to my fellow students who’ve trodden the same Hadlow path in the last 12 months, I’ll really miss you all, from the relaxed contemplation of ‘Little’ Dan, the brute strength of ‘Big’ Dan, the throaty chuckle of Katie, to Justine’s exclamations of horror at the carnivorous habits of the insect world.

To Tracey, there’ll always be a warm welcome at my stately home, and Nichola, go on give up that commute from Medway, you know you want to.

To Steve W, I say put your prices up and to Steve P, congratulations Grandad, thanks for the Champagne, I find it’s always a great way to start a day’s learning. w

More from People

Wed, 14:34

From his home in Broadstairs, Royston Robertson comes up with satirical, topical and sometimes just plain silly cartoons | Words: Caroline Read - Pictures: Manu Palomeque and Royston Robertson

Read more

A scream pierced the foggy night, then all was silent, save for the sound of scurrying footsteps. Murder had been committed. Dare you read on?

Read more
Thursday, October 15, 2020

Music superstar Kate Bush has always been something of an enigma, but one thing is certain – it all began in Bexleyheath | Words: Bernard Bale

Read more
Tuesday, October 13, 2020

On holiday in Ramsgate 185 years ago, Princess Victoria contracted typhus and ‘went missing’ for three weeks. Had she died, the future of the royal family could have been quite different | Words: Stephen Roberts - Photos: Manu Palomeque

Read more
Monday, October 12, 2020

Here are 10 tales to make you shiver as we celebrate All Hallows’ Eve | Words: Stephen Roberts - Photos: Manu Palomeque

Read more

Joseph Hewison on how his affinity with dogs led to a full-time career working with them every day

Read more
Wednesday, October 7, 2020

With a tradition of pioneering and inventiveness, Kent can lay claim to some of this country’s greatest inventions | Words: Stephen Roberts - Photos: Manu Palomeque

Read more
Thursday, September 17, 2020

80 years after the Battle of Britain, Richard Bates recalls the role his father H.E. Bates played in telling the stories of the famous ‘Few’ | Words: Richard Bates

Read more
Thursday, September 10, 2020

They were petty Kent criminals, sentenced to transportation to New South Wales, who became ‘Australian royalty’ as part of the ‘First Fleet’ | Words: John Wright

Read more
Friday, September 4, 2020

The Princess Royal, who celebrates her 70th birthday this month, reflects on her happy time at Benenden School near Cranbrook | Words: Bernard Bale

Read more
Kent Life Food & Drink awards. Open for entries.

Subscribe or buy a mag today


subscription ad


Follow us on Twitter


Like us on Facebook


Local Business Directory

Search For a Car In Your Area

Latest from the Kent Life