Become a self-employed gardener

Hello, I’m Denise Mallen and my career change into becoming a self-employed Gardener. I started in September 2019 with my first RHS course at Winterbourne Centre for Horticulture.  It was the Level 2 Certificate in Practical Horticulture and the reason I enrolled on it was that I knew it was essential to gain a qualification that would be recognised by either prospective employers or customers and provide fundamental knowledge and confidence. I really enjoyed learning again, especially in a subject I love, and completing the course encouraged me to continue studying and eventually to gain my Level 2 Diploma in the Principles and Practices of Horticulture and, of course, do this at Winterbourne. I have just finished my second course Garden Planning, Establishment and Maintenance, and in September I will be starting the third and final part, Principles of Plant Growth and Development, where I shall be looking forward to understanding plant structure and growth and continue to learn more about soil types and plant selection and how I can utilise this information in my work.

So, what was my favourite part of the last course?

Well, it had to be garden planning. I have a background in art and a degree in design, and my ambition is to go into border and garden design thereby combining my loves of drawing and gardening.  But first I need to continue to build upon my knowledge of the “who, what, where when and why” of horticulture, gain new skills, remember Latin plant names and add to my ever-growing folders of plant and garden photos and articles.

What do I most like about the RHS courses at Winterbourne? 

Lots! Firstly, it must be the course tutors; Helen Wood and Darren Rudge are both educated, experienced and successful Horticulturalists and practising Garden Designers. They bring to the courses enthusiasm, a wealth of knowledge, encouragement and with Darren, his famous ‘ten-minute tests’ to keep you on your toes. Then, you also get to meet new people from a whole range of backgrounds that are passionate about gardening in one form or another and wanting to know more.  Classes are structured but fun and both tutors are on hand to explain anything you might not be clear about and there is the WhatsApp group to share laughs and problems – especially vital around exam times. The teaching garden is constantly being redeveloped each year with new students working in it and now it’s growing. Then, over the wall is the magnificent and inspiring Winterbourne Garden to explore, identify plants and watch the seasons go by with the changing planting schemes. I always looked forward to my Saturdays at Winterbourne. It’s such a wonderful environment to learn in and make new friends.

Planning assignment for the ‘outdoor food production in a garden or allotment’ module.

What do I most like about the RHS courses at Winterbourne? 

Lots! Firstly, it must be the course tutors; Helen Wood and Darren Rudge are both educated, experienced and successful Horticulturalists and practising Garden Designers. They bring to the courses enthusiasm, a wealth of knowledge, encouragement and with Darren, his famous ‘ten-minute tests’ to keep you on your toes. Then, you also get to meet new people from a whole range of backgrounds that are passionate about gardening in one form or another and wanting to know more.  Classes are structured but fun and both tutors are on hand to explain anything you might not be clear about and there is the WhatsApp group to share laughs and problems – especially vital around exam times. The teaching garden is constantly being redeveloped each year with new students working in it and now it’s growing. Then, over the wall is the magnificent and inspiring Winterbourne Garden to explore, identify plants and watch the seasons go by with the changing planting schemes. I always looked forward to my Saturdays at Winterbourne. It’s such a wonderful environment to learn in and make new friends.

To finish with, what would I say to someone thinking about considering starting an RHS qualification at Winterbourne?

Do it! It might be the start of a change in your life – it certainly was for me.

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