The idea behind my blog is to provide an insight of what it is like to study horticulture. You can read more about my background and my decision to change my career away from law on my ‘About’ page.
I have just completed the first half-term on my full-time horticulture course, which I would say is roughly 60% practical and 40% theoretical. I have spent a great deal of the academic year so far getting my hands dirty. However, it was inevitable that I would have to eventually sit down with some textbooks and remember how to write academic type stuff.
It was a busy week at college leading up to the half term break. We managed to cram in a visit to the beautiful Winkworth Arboretum in Godalming on a crisp clear autumnal day in order to harvest seed with the National Trust’s permission.
In our garden design class we selected and measured up our gardens poised to begin the designing process. We also cleared a border, divided and replanted perennials. My work experience involved potting on numerous plants (including one of my favourites – Acer palmatum) and bringing them into our Venlo Glasshouse for the winter. I also had a lot of fun playing…er…I mean working with different types of lawnmowers and understanding which ones to use, when and why. More to come on turf management early next year (I’m still trying to get a hang of this ‘teaser thing’, please bear with me).
Great! Into the half-term break. A week off college to catch up with myself, see friends, write blog postings. Or so I thought. The reality was very different. It turns out those assignments handed to me by my tutors were not quite as innocuous as I had anticipated.
The first part of my investigative project (apple grafting if you were interested to know) was fairly straightforward. I also caught up with a few tasks left over from my lessons, including completion of a garden design critique, service and maintenance reports for plant machinery and a botany list for a garden design. Those were just the general housekeeping type tasks.
Planting the seed
I naively went into my plant science assignment thinking I would have it done in half a day. Let’s face it, how often have we been taught about photosynthesis and seeds. It turns out I had only ever scratched the surface (or should that be scarified?). The questions had been cunningly designed to test the depth of our understanding and the application of our newly found wisdom. The assignment did not allow us students to regurgitate the information we had absorbed in class. It transpires our tutor was simply planting the seeds of knowledge and it was up to us students to disperse to the library to find out more. It is all very well knowing the biology behind photoperiodism for flowering. However, I really had to think about it when probed in detail on the horticultural applications of this knowledge in a commercial context. It meant reading a great deal around the subject, then reflecting upon it. Not all of the text I digested was relevant to the answer I had to provide, but I learnt massive amounts of interesting material in the process. It also took a very long time.
Horticulture – it is a growing industry
Then there was the business evaluation. Again, this required a great deal of time and research. I had to conduct some general analysis on the impact of horticulture on both the local and national economies – I can tell you are probably as gripped as I was about this, but I’ll leave that point there and you can learn more about it for homework (the Lantra website is a great resource). Oh yeah, I know how to tantalise my readers.
The main part of this project was a case study. I chose to focus on Chessington Garden Centre. I owe a great deal of gratitude to its human resources manager for meeting with me for the best part of an hour last week. We discussed various aspects of the business including structure, supply chain and other nuggets of information to help me draft a SWOT analysis (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats). I also got to check out their lovely new restaurant in the process. And, not ones to miss an opportunity, their ever popular Christmas grotto was just about ready (that will be going into the strengths section of my analysis, just so I know your curiousity has been satisfied).
It can’t be all play and no work
I wanted to illustrate that although I would love to just get out there and garden, Merrist Wood College insists on equipping us students with the skills to go out there to work commercially. So far, us students have succeeded in both learning a broad range of expertise with a depth that will stand us in good stead. For this I am grateful. Until next time, I’m off to build my gardening empire.