The liberation of education

This blog post was originally titled “education = better vegetation” but the new rhyme is more appropriate. Last week I found out I passed my RHS Level 3 Certificate in Garden Planning, Construction and Planting with commendations.

My friend Natasha – who I met when we both started studying at the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh a couple of years ago – texted saying “Can you believe we’ve now done twelve exams?!” I really couldn’t. Twelve!

It’s full credit to the RHS and their course structure that I’ve enjoyed every minute of every learning outcome of studying horticulture both at Level 2 and now Level 3. I hadn’t stopped to think how many exams we’d sat. Back in the day at school I could barely be forced into a classroom, now I’m hungry for horticultural and construction information.

Yes I still get nervous about the exams but it’s different because it’s a chance to test my knowledge – I’m challenging myself. I have to give full credit too to the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh for their enjoyable lessons and tutoring.

I still have one more certificate to go for Level 3, the science related section, which is the bit I’m most looking forward to. I was going to try and squeeze one of the four exams in this June however life is getting too busy with design and I’m feeling as though I won’t be able to do it justice.

Another friend at work (hello Mog!) today reminded me that I’m studying horticulture for a reason, and she’s of course right. That reason is not about passing the exams, I started studying for fun and to expand my knowledge as quickly as possible to become a better gardener.

The RHS courses have done tenfold what I was expecting, they have empowered and liberated.

On the flip side of studying is putting the newfound knowledge into practice. Last year I started designing gardens for people across London, the courses giving me that extra confidence.

Quickly this has expanded and I’ve now designed a large variety of spaces, including living walls, balconies, driveways, rugby clubs, community gardens, front gardens and back gardens (large and small). In total I’m currently working on transforming a few acres of different gardens across or near London.

This is a strange feeling because suddenly I’m responsible for so many different areas of a large garden – just spread out across the city. In a number of the bigger gardens I’m currently working on we’re planning various trees to plant that could live on beyond my life time which is an exciting prospect.

Going hands on is another form of learning and it’s really how you perfect your craft, so immersing myself in design and pausing the RHS exams for now I know is the right thing to do. I’m still going to read the RHS Level 3 book I’ve been so excited about reading, exams or no exams – so the important bit, learning, is still happening.

One thing I feel worth saying is that while I’ve always been green fingered and creative, I don’t believe that people are born naturally gifted. Anyone can learn anything. Naturally interested is what shapes our areas of expertise. No one is born knowing how to grow a broad bean, but if you’re interested you will learn quickly.

If you’re interested in something, either professionally or personally and want to learn more, it’s never too late. I hated school because I was forced to study things that didn’t interest me. You may be surprised at how different things can be when you’re in control.

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Jack Wallington

I'm an RHS qualified garden designer living in Clapham, London who loves growing plants and designing with them. Follow me on Twitter.

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4 thoughts on “The liberation of education”

  1. Well done Jack that’s great going. My husband studies loads for his work but he loves it and finds very rewarding. Be nice if children could study like this and find what they love then it comes so much easier

    1. Thank you Sarah, it’s great your husband feels the same. Yes, I do wonder if it’s simply something that can only happen when you are older and the pressure is off – although, I do know many children who manage to find the subject they love from an early age.

    1. Thank you Ade and Sophie! I’m very chuffed with it all (not sure you can be very chuffed… but I’m gonna roll with it).
      Jack

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