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I started my new college course this week.

It’s the Plants and Plant Design course, run by Capel Manor College – and I’m told they’re the only ones in the country who do a course focussing solely on designing with plants (rather than general garden design, which in most colleges means a lot of stuff about paving slabs). It’s one half of their full diploma course – the other half being their “Principles and Practice” garden design course, which at the moment anyway I don’t think I shall take as I don’t really want to be a garden designer. That’s tantamount to heresy in some quarters, it seems, and I may yet see the error of my ways and change my mind, but right now I just want to learn about plants.

The first day was pretty much an orientation session – working out what we’re going to do and when, where the library is, all that kind of stuff. We were initiated into the arcane science of plant idents – something I do day-to-day in my normal job, but not something which I’ve had to do formally before. This week it’s Deschampsia cespitosa ‘Goldtau’, a couple of Persicarias, a Sedum and a rather floppy-looking Achillea (‘Summerwine’ if my memory serves me right). Plant names aren’t usually a problem for me, but remembering all their various habits, sizes, tics and quirks is a bit more challenging – unfortunately the plants are chosen for you, or I’d use the opportunity to learn a whole load of plants I don’t already know!

The course syllabus includes a visit to Great Dixter, another to Beth Chatto’s, and a third to – get this – the Netherlands to visit some of the iconic gardens they have there (unfortunately not Piet Oudolf’s, but fortunately Het Loo which is somewhere I’ve wanted to go for a very, very long time). Now this is my kind of school lesson!

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