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The Last from Capel Manor

It’s hard to believe there are only two more weeks of my college course to go. I have nearly completed the RHS Level 2 Certificate in Practical Horticulture, it’s been great going to college as well as working at Ashridge. I’ve networked with students and tutors, made genuine friends with the other people on my course, as well as expanded my horticultural skills even more. It’s going to be sad to say goodbye!

Sowing seeds

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Hedge-cutting – check out the concentration on my face!

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A few weeks ago I helped out at Capel Manor’s Open Day at their Enfield campus. I was helping my tutor on the RHS stand along with a couple of other students, giving information about courses to prospective students as well as dealing with enquiries about pest and diseases, identifying plants and various other questions from the general public. It was a great way of testing my horticultural knowledge!

RHS Stand at the Enfield Open Day

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Here I am showing a member of the public a specimen of woolly aphid!

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I’ve also been busy training for another course – the LANTRA Level 2 Award in Chainsaw Maintenance and Cross-cutting. How scary is that!! It’s a qualification which is required when applying for most horticultural jobs these days, and one which the PGG pay for whilst I’m on the Traineeship.

I attended two training days last week with a few other students, one day was all about the maintenance of a chainsaw like how it worked, what parts did what, how to maintain it and repair parts of it. I’m not mechanically minded at all so I made loads of notes and even took photos on my phone to prompt my brain into remembering how to take each bit apart!

The inner workings of a chainsaw – sprocket and clutch system

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The chain

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The second day was actually using the chainsaw to cut up timber on the ground, known as cross-cutting. Trying to remember all the health and safety procedures while trying to get to grips with using a chainsaw was nerve-wracking but I think I got the hang of it by the end of the day. I had trouble getting it started(!) but once it was warmed up I was away!

The assessment is Thursday, to say I am shitting myself would be an understatement! I’m sure once I get into it I will be fine, it’s the same as any exam – I’m good at putting myself under pressure to pass. Fingers crossed I do!

The chainsaw gang!

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The grounds at Capel Manor are looking gorgeous now we are in the middle of summer. The roses, peonies and herbaceous borders are alive with colour, I love wandering round in my lunch break and noticing more plants which have come into flower.

Some gorgeous roses

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Rose borders

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A perfect peony

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Lovely clematis

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Vibrant poppies

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Herbaceous border

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Kniphofia, aka red hot poker

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Lychnis coronaria

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This will probably be the last new post about Capel Manor, I will share some favourite photos in a few weeks time. Until then! 🙂

YoungHort Conference

YoungHort is an initiative which was set up in 2013 by young horticulturists for other young horticulturists. Last week I attended the first ever YoungHort conference at RHS Wisley, it was a fantastic day with over a hundred people attending.

The day was packed with inspirational talks from James Wong, Paul Hervey-Brookes, Michael Perry, Leigh Morris and others, as well as talks from YoungHort ambassadors themselves. We had a great garden tour from the staff at Wisley and an ideas session at the end of the day about how to improve the image of horticulture amongst young people. younghort

Overall it was a great opportunity to network with other people as well as horticultural organisations such as the Institute of Horticulture, the RHS and Grow Careers.

I only found out on the day that the YoungHort ambassadors managed to organise the event in just over a month, with the budget of a shoestring! It makes what they achieved even more impressive, I feel proud to be part of this initiative to promote young talent within the horticulture industry.

What made the day even more special was the fact one of my friends from Eden came all the way up from Cornwall for it. She stayed with me for a day before the conference, it was lovely to see her and catch up on each other’s news since we last saw each other in the New Year. I also met the new apprentice at Eden, and dragged along one of my work colleagues from Ashridge too!

You can find out more about YoungHort on their website here and see photos and more from the conference on their blog here. 🙂

General Update

First written and posted on 21st October, 2013. Please click here if you would like to read the original post on This and That.

It’s been a while since my last post, life has been great but really hectic – this is the first day in a month where I’ve had time to catch up on my normal routine, like washing, sleeping and writing! I had a seminar to attend at the start of the month, the Professional Gardeners’ Guild hold one every year for their trainees and for students on the Historical and Botanic Garden Bursary scheme – HBGBS for short!

A gorgeous herbaceous border on one of the garden tours

It’s a chance for us to meet everyone else on the traineeship schemes, there were sixteen PGGs and twenty four HBGBSs so lots of mingling involved. The joint seminar was held in Sussex at a wonderful place called Dunford House, which is often used for conferences. It’s pretty much in the middle of nowhere, with lovely lawns and an arboretum surrounding the house. I was more interested in the grounds than anything else!

Dunford House

As well as meeting the other trainees we had a packed three day schedule which included: tours round private gardens, a talk from the glasshouse makers Alitex and a guided tour of their factory, taxonomy classes, talks and advice on how to make yourself more employable after leaving our different traineeship schemes and a “Plant of Interest” session – we all had to bring in a plant at our workplace which we found interesting, and stand in front of everyone and talk about it for five minutes. No pressure at all then!!

An Alitex glasshouse!

I chose Geranium maderense which is a gorgeous geranium that is endemic to the island of Madeira. It’s on the IUCN Red List (International Union for Conservation of Nature) as critically endangered, as its habitat is declining due to urbanisation. It’s one of my favourite geraniums because of its vivid pink flowers and shape of the overall plant – it can grow up to three feet tall and adds great structure to any border. It was in the biomes at Eden and is at Ashridge too, another reason why I love it so much!

Geranium maderense

Last weekend I went home for the first time since I started my new job, it was lovely to go back and see my family and friends, even if it was just for the weekend. I saw my best friend who recently gave birth to a beautiful baby boy, Oscar Riley Frederick Ormand. He is the cutest little thing in the world, I am so lucky to be his godmother! I watched Strictly Come Dancing with my mum, it was great to chat about the different celebrities, a proper mum and daughter gossip. 🙂 My kittykats were very pleased to see me, and don’t look any the worse for having me as an absent mother – bless them!

My best friend with her baby!

Work has been incredibly manic too, October is the time of year when there is a big bedding switch over – annual plants that are put in for summer colour like Antirrhinums (snapdragons), Helianthus (sunflowers), CosmosTagetes (marigolds) and many more are ripped out and replaced with winter ones like ViolasErysimum (wallflowers), Myosotis (forget-me-nots) Bellis (daisies) and Primulas (polyanthus, primroses).

The Fernery Garden bed, before planting

Before that huge changeover we were busy under-planting the beds with bulbs like Tulipa (tulips), Hyacinthus (hyacinths), Fritillarias (fritillary), Narcissus (daffodils), and Alliums, which will appear in spring. Overall we planted eight thousand bulbs and thirty six thousand bedding plants in two weeks, not bad going for a team of nine!

The Fernery Garden, all planted!

Some areas at Ashridge took a few days to complete, like the Terrace which overlooks the main lawn and the Monks’ Garden which has four large armorial beds. My favourite area to plant up has to be the Fernery Garden, because of the way we did it. For all the other beds we had done random planting, simply scattering the plants evenly over the soil and consolidating them compactly.

The Terrace, yet to be planted

However the Fernery is a circular bed so we marked out five rings and planted from the inside out, using all of the five winter bedding plants I mentioned earlier. I can’t wait to see the whole place in spring, everywhere is going to be alive with colour – you will be the first to see the photos!

The Terrace, all planted!

Just to add to my exciting month I received some fantastic news yesterday – at the end of September I applied for funding so I could start studying an RHS course and to my delight my application was accepted! In February I start the RHS Level 2 Certificate in Practical Horticulture, which is a part time course that I study one day a week at college. As well as learning the basic practical horticultural skills there will be plant identification tests too, and assessments in all elements at the end of the course. I’m really looking forward to it, as well as having the Professional Gardeners’ Guild Diploma I will also have an RHS qualification to add to the list!

Me planting bulbs in the Monks' Garden!

That’s all my news for now, I will update you all again soon. Until then happy writing! 🙂

The Kew Experience

First written and posted on 9th August, 2013. Please click here if you would like to read the original post on This and That.

In July I had the opportunity to work in the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, for two weeks on a work placement. I was lucky enough to work in the famous Palmhouse and Waterlily House, I had such an amazing time and met loads of talented people who were keen to share their knowledge with me and made me feel so welcome – I really felt like one of the Kew Krew! Zululand cycad, aka Encephalartos ferox

There are two permanent members of staff in the Palmhouse, the other workers are a mixture of Kew’s own trainees, apprentices and diploma students, and anyone doing volunteering like me. I knew one of the trainees already, Louisa came down to Eden to do a work placement in the spring so it was great to catch up with her again. Synandrospadix vermitoxicus

Her one year traineeship finished at the beginning of August and I was delighted to hear she has a new job already lined up, as a Temperate Propagator in Kew’s Tropical Nursery – congratulations Louisa!

The 200 year old cycad!

I met several diploma students who were a great bunch, and told me all about the wonders of the diploma course – they said it was incredible but intense, you literally live, eat, sleep and breathe plants 24/7 for three years. I’m not put off by it though, it still sounds like heaven to me! Heliconia

The head of the Palmhouse, Wes, is a brilliant chap, his knowledge is just crazy, I don’t know how he knows so much about everything. I tried to be a sponge for two weeks and just absorb as much as possible! It was quite scary working there at first, because I was given the same responsibilities as if I was one of Kew’s own students, not just a volunteer. Catharanthus rosea

For the first week I was in charge of the South end of the Palmhouse, which is full of plants from Africa, including cycads! One of them was the oldest pot plant ever, a cycad which is over 200 years old – every day was nerve-wracking just in case I damaged it in some way! For the second week I was responsible of the Waterlily House which was brilliant, it’s such a beautiful place to be, especially first thing in the morning when no one else is around.

Cycad silhouette

The morning was spent on daily duties in our own areas which we did by ourselves, such as watering and general tidying, like leaf picking, pruning, etc. I was cautious at first, I didn’t want to accidentally kill a rare plant by cutting it back too brutally or over/under watering it! By the third or fourth day I had settled in, and by the end of the two weeks I truly felt at home in the Palmhouse, with both the plants and the people. 20130726_074956

The weather was baking hot whilst I was there, the fact I was in London made it even worse – the hottest day was 36 degrees, dropping to a sweltering 28 at night. One day it was the same temperature in the Palmhouse as it was outside, which was unbelievable considering it is kept super hot to accommodate all the tropical plants. Hibiscus

It was much cooler than the Rainforest Biome at Eden though, it can get up to 48 degrees in there in summer and the hottest it got in the Palmhouse while I was there was only 35. The rest of the team were flagging and downing energy drinks whereas I felt pretty energetic on just water!!

Me in the Waterlily House!

As well as the independent work which is part of the daily maintenance of the Palmhouse and Waterlily House I also had the chance to do a few different jobs together as a team, such as bed blitzing. Africa area of the Palmhouse

The plants grow much more rapidly in the heat so it is essential to keep on top of the pruning otherwise the whole place would end up like a jungle. We went round the beds in the Palmhouse in turn and spent time cutting back and thinning out plants, as well as weeding and consolidating new plants as necessary. Amorphophallus titanum seeds

One job which was not exciting, but essential, was putting out labels, so the public knew which plant was which. I still enjoyed doing it because it meant I got to learn and get to grips with as many plant names as possible whilst I was there. Cleaning the signs was a favourite job to do on a Friday!

Sackler Crossing

Working in the Waterlily House was a definite highlight for me, I love the plants in there and the layout of the glasshouse as well. It’s a popular attraction for visitors too, we spent about two days a week tidying the beds around the pond and weeding the pond and feeding the water lilies and other aquatic plants. Waterlily House

It’s a bit like being in a fish bowl whilst I was in the pond, people would stand there and take photos and ask endless questions about what we were doing, so it was lovely going in there and working on a quiet day – it was tempting to get rid of the waders and have a swim! Carnivorous plants

On my penultimate day I had a tour of the Tropical Nursery which was awesome, especially as it’s not open to the general public – Louisa showed me round which was apt, seeing as that’s where she’ll soon be working! There are loads of different zones in the nursery, separate sections for certain types of plants such as carnivorous, hardy tropical, cacti and succulents, orchids, bromeliads, ferns, aquatic, temperate, etc. There is a horticulturist in each zone who specialise in those kinds of plants, the knowledge of the nursery team is phenomenal. I can only aspire to be that good one day!

Cacti section in the Tropical Nursery

I had one full weekend in London, one day I went sight-seeing and the other I spent looking round Kew – yes, a whole day spent in the gardens! I managed to see all the parts I hadn’t seen previously, such as Kew Palace and Queen Charlotte’s Cottage, the Bamboo Garden and Minka House, an area full of rhododendrons, magnolias and azaleas (I was told in spring it looks stunning), Sackeler Crossing, the Pinetum, the Rock Garden, Japanese Gateway, Mediterranean Garden, the Pagoda, Secluded Garden, Duke’s Garden, as well as the indoor attractions which were the Temperate House, Davies Alpine House, Princess of Wales Conservatory, and the Palmhouse and Waterlily House of course! Duke's Garden

My favourite areas outside were definitely the Mediterranean Garden and the Duke’s Garden, purely because at this time of year they look exquisite. In the Med Garden it was just like Eden’s Mediterranean Biome, but outdoors! Eucalyptus trees

They had cork oak trees (Quercus suber), stones pines, olive trees (Olea europaea), with classic bulbs and shrubs planted underneath, not to mention herbs like rosemary, thyme and sage.

The Mediterranean Garden

The Duke’s Garden was beautiful, it’s a walled garden with a large lawn that is framed with vivid seasonal beds. The lavender border was the best part, it looked and smelt divine! Zingiber spectabile

Sackler Crossing was an unusual part of Kew, I stumbled across it by chance but I was glad I did! It’s a long pond with a bridge across one end of it, with a vista at one side that looks straight down at the Palmhouse. It’s a really tranquil area, I ate my lunch along the water’s edge and just watched the world go by. Kew Palace

The Palmhouse and Waterlily House were obviously my favourite glasshouses(!) but the Princess of Wales Conservatory and Davies Alpine House came close behind. The Temperate House is a great place too, but Kew are in the middle of a big restoration project on it at the moment which will take years to complete.

Japanese Gateway and the Pagoda

The whole house is being re done, so all the plants are being moved out bit by bit and kept in the Tropical Nursery until the work is complete. It was sparse when I went in there but usually it is as breath-taking as the Palmhouse – it will be again once the restoration work is done. Duke's Garden

The POW (aka the Princess of Wales Conservatory!) looks wonderful at any time of year, the mangroves and carnivorous parts of it are my favourites, and the orchids too of course. I could have lived in there to be honest! View of the lake

The Alpine House is surrounded by the Rock Garden which was full of a variety of Mediterranean plants growing amongst the crags of the rocks. The geraniums and irises looked particularly lovely, and the delicate looking alpine plants in the glasshouse had the most gorgeous flowers.

Davies Alpine House

I loved looking around this part of Kew after work in the evening, when there weren’t many visitors around and the evening sun shone down. One word – magical! The Rock Garden

There were plenty of waterlilies (Nymphaea) and the giant waterlily Victoria cruziana in bloom whilst I was there in the Waterlily House, they’re what makes it so striking even though it’s the smallest glasshouse at Kew. American area of the Palmhouse

The Palmhouse has sections which are Africa, America and Australasia, full of plants native to that region of the world. I recognised many from the Rainforest at Eden, which was lucky for me – at least I knew what most of the plants were, there’s nothing worse than having a person ask you what something is when you don’t know the answer!

The Rock Garden, again!

There were a few tropical flowers in bloom such as eye-catching orchids and heliconias, I took over 300 photos of Kew so the ones you see in this post are the edited highlights. It was so hard picking out my favourite shots! In the Temperate House

My time at Kew was everything I expected it to be and more, I made new friends who I will keep in touch with and caught up with old ones too! Being able to work in one of the most famous botanical gardens in the world is an invaluable experience which will benefit my future career for sure. I still hope I get the opportunity to go back there to work and study properly, one day – watch out Kew, I’ll be back. . . !

London Plane tree

Best Eden Moments

First written and posted on 29th August, 2013. Please click here if you would like to read the original post on This and That.

I thought I’d done my last post about Eden but I couldn’t resist writing one more! This is mainly a collection of photos of the best moments I’ve had at Eden, including shots from when I saw Jessie J perform outside the biomes with my brother, to pictures from my leaving do, student profile photography which will be in Duchy College’s prospectus for next year and other favourite images I wanted to share again.

My home!

I leave Devon at the weekend to start my new job with the Professional Gardeners’ Guild so whenever I’m missing my old life in Cornwall I’ll have this post as a reminder of all the good, crazy times. . . I’ll have an update once I’ve settled in, until then I’ll be sharing poetry as regularly as I can so this isn’t the last from me! In the meantime I hope you enjoy the photos. 🙂

Me and my apprenticeship mentor, Dina

Me with my apprenticeship mentor Dina, at my leaving do.

Me and my flatmate Johnny!

Me and my flatmate Johnny!

Group shot at my leaving do

Group shot at my leaving do.

Student profile photography

Student profile photography.

Student profile photography again!

Student profile photography, again!

Jessie J!

Jessie J!

The biomes at night!

The biomes at night!

Me and my brother!

Me and my brother, James!

The arena filled with people

The arena at Eden, packed with people.

The Rainforest

Inside the Rainforest Biome.

My flatmates!

Me and my flatmates!

Me and Beki

Me with my tutor Beki at Cornwall College’s Award Ceremony, where I was runner-up for Apprentice of the Year.

Farewell Eden

First written and posted on 15th August, 2013. Please click here if you would like to read the original post on This and That.

I can’t believe I’m writing my last post about my time at Eden – tomorrow is the last day of my apprenticeship! I honestly don’t know where the time has gone, it seems like only weeks ago I was excitedly sharing the news that I had an interview to work at the Eden Project. . . and the rest, as they say, is history. Hibiscus

I’ve had more ups and downs than a rollercoaster, at times this past year has been so challenging I found myself wondering why the hell was I putting myself through this – then something awesome would happen, like having the opportunity to work at Kew, or getting a place on the Professional Gardeners’ Guild Traineeship and life would make sense again. Lucie babe!

I’ve been incredibly lucky to work with so many talented horticulturists who are genuinely wonderful people as well. They have given so much of their time to teach me skills and techniques I had never learnt before and given me responsibilities which have proved to myself I know more than I give myself credit for – self-belief is the main thing this apprenticeship has taught me.

My home!

When I look back to this time last year I had no idea what I was letting myself in for. I was prepared for the physical hard work but I didn’t imagine I would be put in as many challenging situations as I have been, or the fact I coped with them as well as I did. Me with the butterflies!

I feel I now have not just the practical horticultural skills which are vital for any future job but also the right attitude and outlook which will stand me in good stead when I look to running a garden of my own, one day. Plants and people go hand in hand! Dahlias

Since I came back from Kew the last few weeks at Eden have been brilliant. I suddenly realised how little time I had left at this unique place and was determined to soak up as much of it as possible before I left – which I have done!

The Rainforest

I’ve been working inside and outside, for my last week I could choose where I wanted to be so I chose the Rainforest Biome, surprise surprise! Tropical plants are just my thing, this may be the last chance I get to work with exotic species for a while, depending on which garden I end up working at whilst on the PGG Traineeship – hopefully one will be botanical. More butterflies!

I’ve become great friends with most of my co-workers, it sounds corny but I feel as close to some people as I do my own family. I will definitely stay in touch and visit Cornwall regularly, it’s become my home! Wild flower meadow

I have taken loads of photos, of areas outside, inside and just general shots of the past week. The dahlia and wild flower meadow are looking beautiful outside, and the Rainforest looks gorgeous, as always. I was lucky enough to get some pictures of the butterflies in the biome, a couple even landed on me and stayed long enough to have their photo taken!

I’m going to the pub tomorrow evening to have a few drinks with everyone from Eden, as a final farewell. I will have more photos to share over the weekend, for now I hope you enjoy these shots. As we say in Norwegian, farvel vennene mine – farewell my friends. . .

Another butterfly!