Garden Schools

Llanover House Gardens

Llanover House Gardens

I have felt very frustrated in recent years at the lack of opportunities to attend horticultural courses that aren’t to do with becoming a designer.  What I really want are some short courses that give me information on things like propagation, succession planting, basic simple planting ideas, planting for difficult areas etc.  There seem to be courses a plenty should I wish to have a career change and become a garden designer or landscaper but little for the amateur who wants to learn more. The alternative seems to be RHS Certificates which gives you the information you want on diseases, propagation, soil etc etc and I am doing one of these but it is very academic with exams etc and I  don’t think I really want this level of stress as it is detracting from my enjoyment of the garden.  No, I am looking for something enjoyable, short, ideally a day with nice people in a nice setting.

Through the wonderous internet I have discovered Garden Schools.  They seem to be a fairly new innovation and I  think those in the know keep quite about them – keeping their secret to themselves!!

I initially discovered the Llanover School of Gardening, Abergavenny, a couple of years ago and my parents bought me a day there for my birthday.  The setting as you can see from the photo is delightful.  The ‘classroom’ is in a converted barn with under seat heating no less and lunch is served in the house.  Llanover’s format is to generally have two speakers, one in the morning and one in the afternoon.  They run a Spring and Autumn programme. I really enjoyed my day there though it was a little clicky with groups of ladies who appeared to be regulars. I would go again but as the courses are during the week it is problematic getting the time off work particularly this year when I already have a number of days booked off for University visits with my youngest.

Then I came across Coton Manor Garden School, Northamptonshire.  They seem to be very established and have an excellent range of well known speakers.  Their format is a half day and then I suppose you can visit the garden.  Again a nice lunch is included.  My parents tried to book me on a course last year for my birthday but everything I was interested in was already booked.  This year I was quick, as soon as the programme arrived it was duly marked with the days I was interested in and my parents were on the case.  They have managed to get me the last place on my first choice – a talk by Fergus Garrett on Planting for Succession.  I have heard Fergus before and I think he is the best horticultural speaker I have heard, so natural and generous with information.  I am quite excited but I will have to wait until April. Coton Manor’s classes start later than Llanover so you could probably find something 10 months of the year if you looked.

Then we have the new kid on the block.  The Bath Gardening School just set up by Emma, who I know via Twitter.  She has come to an arrangement with Bath Botanical Gardens to hold the sessions there and has put together a varied and interesting selection of courses.  Another plus is that she has scheduled them for Saturdays which makes life easier for us working amateur gardeners.  I think she has brought together a good selection of speakers and has covered quite a broad range of subjects, something for everyone including those with an interest in bee keeping! Unlike Coton Manor her courses are for a whole day including lunch, which, weather permitting, will be picnics in the summer!!  I will definitely be keeping an eye on her offer and hope to be booking a course soon.

I do believe that these Garden Schools are the way forward and I am looking forward to discovering more

18 Comments on “Garden Schools

  1. Emma has certainly put together an excellent programme for her school – I would have trouble deciding which day to do!

    How wonderful that you are going to hear Fergus Garrett – what a lovely Birthday gift.

  2. Pingback: Tweets that mention Garden Schools: new blog post on garden schools --

  3. Thank you for the link to Bath Gardening School, which is new to me and relatively close. I’m sure you’ll have a wonderful time at Coton Manor – I heard Fergus Garrett’s ‘Succession Planting’ talk there last year and he was wonderful. I agree about RHS – just about to do the second Level II exam, but the level 3 now has a practical module which looks tempting.

  4. Perfect birthday gifts. I’ll have to look in to the Bath-run courses, its so close to me. Like you, I have no interest in taking any exams, I promised myself I wouldn’t do any more years ago, after the stress of an RYA theory course (I’d forgotten how hard revision can be), but I’d love to learn more.

  5. Fergus Garrett is a wonderful speaker and throws out nuggets of advice and information in almost every sentence. Take lots of notes!

  6. Yes – take lots of notes, and then blog the lot *wonders if this ‘note-stealing’ is entirely legal…*

  7. Thank you for the information. Had been feeling very down this morning, now cheered up at the thought of planning a week in Wales with a garden course at Llandover sometime during that week. Its good to have something to look forward to. Spent my lunch hour wandering around Wilkinsons garden section – came away with lots of things, such excellent value!

  8. I enjoy days such as these too, and keep toying with the idea of doing the Allotment or Veg Patch offerings at River Cottage.

    Emma’s Bath Garden School classes are very tempting too and not so far that I couldnt be there and back in a day.

    Food for thought.

  9. You are so lucky to have these schools in your area. Here I can go across the border to Canada and the Niagara Falls Horticulture School. It is very close, but the border crossing makes it a real pain. You have gotten a great birthday gift. Enjoy.

  10. Oh, I would love to attend a class in gardening! I haven’t heard of anything like this in Denmark, but now you’ve made me curious; it might just be that the Danish gardeners, too, keep this to themselves…

  11. Oh lucky you – having not just one but two opportunities to hear Fergus Garrett talk – I am most envious. I have no wish to take formal exams again and doubt whether the old grey matter would cope, but really enjoyed day courses in garden photography and propagation last year at Sue Beesley’s nearby Lodge Lane nursery. Would that the garden schools were nearer 🙂

  12. Thank you for sharing your secret! I hadn’t heard of these schools – and Llanover is so close to us, and even Bath is poised for a day trip… Our first garden course was the espalier training one last summer at Painswick Rococo gardens, and we loved it. Roll on April, it should be an excellent day.

  13. Hi,

    don’t know whether you are aware that Fergus does courses “at home” at Great Dixter. I attended his succession planting one day course last April. Brilliant day out and learnt loads – not difficult, some might say. And, for me, any excuse to spend a day at Dixter …. the link is


    • Thanks David – I am aware of the courses at Dixter and really want to go on one but its just the wrong side of the country for me at the moment. I hope to get my act together and book a course but will have to stay overnight

  14. Just been to a fab day at West Dean Gardens near Chichester. It’s in the same area as Great Dixter – I wonder if it might be feasible to do a day’s course at each and make a weekend of it?

  15. Garden schools seem a fantastic way to learn. I am also doing a RHS course but really only want the practicle stuff not the exams. I would rather be out there working than in studying about it!

  16. Pingback: Read all about it! | The Bath Gardening School

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