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Developing Practical Horticulture Skills Course

May 16, 2022

Hi, I’m Jessica Smith from Lisburn and I am currently studying Level 2 Diploma in Practical Horticulture Skills at CAFRE, Greenmount Campus in Antrim. 

I’ve had a passion for houseplants for a long time and this led to my interest in studying horticulture. Before applying to CAFRE I talked to various people in the industry, a landscape designer, and gardeners with the National Trust, a garden maintenance professional, all to get a better idea of what I could do within horticulture. This communication trail led me to apply for the Level 2 full-time programme which seemed like a good starting point for me. I liked the pace of the course being just three days a week so I could see if horticulture was really right for me. 

I’m really enjoying the course. It’s got so much practical activity which has really helped me gain confidence in skills like maintaining plants in a public garden and using machinery. Learning more about plant propagation and production has also opened my eyes to the possibility of becoming a nursery grower. In the course we cover theory work and learn plant identification, but it’s broken down into manageable groups. 

Our class has had some great visits to nursery stock growers like, Craigmore Trees and beautiful gardens around Northern Ireland like Hillsborough Castle Garden and the National Trust’s Rowallane Garden. During the visit I was inspired to volunteer at Rowallane where I now assist in the garden once a week. Recently I got involved in the preparation for Garden Show Ireland at the end of April. I helped with Diarmuid Gavin’s Clockwork Tower Garden recently constructed in Antrim Castle Grounds by planting up a section of herbaceous plants leading up to the Garden Show Ireland. I also working at the show, firstly assisting with planting up the CAFRE student garden and then selling plants, some of which we grew as part of our plant production classes. It was great to see it all come a full circle.

I feel that practical course has given me a broad and basic knowledge of many aspects of horticulture, and more importantly inspired me to continue studying! I’ve discovered a new interest in propagation and growing, but now also heritage gardening all prompting me to apply for the Level 3 full-time horticulture course so that I can continue to explore my options and learn more and more about horticulture.