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