Andy's Adventures in gardening : Planning for the New Year ...

By Andy McIndoe

By now I expect you’ve built up a whole list of New Year’s Resolutions? Personally I’m still thinking. However, I have got lots of plans for the coming year, and some of those have evolved during occasional forays into the garden over the festive period. Don’t you find that’s always the way. You head out into the garden with a specific purpose – cutting back the sedums that have gone soggy, for example. Somewhere along the way you notice that the elaeagnus has swamped the rubus, so “selective pruning” is needed. Then you notice that the taxus planted as a term (you know, one of those sculpture things they put at the end of hedges to make a statement) has become overgrown, so you decide to move it. Now moving a mature conifer that’s been in position for a few years is no mean feat! That’s got to be worth the effort.

Taxus bnaccata 'Fastigiata'

In the meantime the Head Gardener has arrived on site, uncertain about the new position of the taxus. She thinks it’s a good idea to move it, but does not think it will be possible to get all the acanthus roots out where it is to be planted. You know she’s right, but you are on a mission. After all the original plan to prune the elaeagnus has been put on hold, and the soggy sedums are still to be cut back.

Well, that’s what gardening is like. That’s why we enjoy it. It is a very creative activity, whether you are planting, pruning, sowing, digging, potting or just enjoying being out there amongst the plants with your camera. We all have different approaches to it as well. I know some of you will be puzzled by my earlier account of how I tackle jobs in the garden. The analytical ones will be thinking: “Why didn’t he do the pruning first?” But then again I never read the instructions first when I open a box, I like to work it out as I go along, whether I’m assembling a piece of furniture, or working out how a new bit of equipment works.

Crocus tomasinianus

That’s the great thing about the online gardening courses here at MyGardenSchool. Although the lectures and notes are structured you tailor them to your own requirements. Because you have direct contact with the tutors, and maybe with other students on your course, you can get from it just what you want. You can use the assignments in relation to your own garden and own interests and you can be as analytical or creative as you wish.

Corylus avellana 'Purpurea' catkins

On my online gardening courses at MyGardenSchool I’ve had great diversity of students.  On the Designing with Shrubs course, for example, I’ve had students with differing backgrounds and levels of experience - from private gardeners to landscape architects working on particular planting projects. Some join me specifically to learn about care and maintenance, especially pruning. Any of you that have tried to follow those little step by step pictures in books on pruning will understand the difficulties. No two plants are ever alike, and once you find that your rose doesn’t have a branch where you are supposed to be cutting you’ve had it! I tackle it differently. I’ll tell you why you are doing it, and when the best time is. I’ll give you examples, and then you go out there and investigate. You ask me when you get stuck, and you find that your shrub doesn’t have a branch where there should be one. We then work it out together, and you know for next time. Also, I promise not to let your shrubs get as out of hand as my elaeagnus, OK?

Of all the online gardening courses available, the course I’d really love to do this year is Sue Bishop’s Flower Photography Course.  Now I take loads of photos. I use them for books, articles, lectures, courses. I’ve taken some good ones and I take lots of bad ones. I think my picture composition is pretty good, and I’ve got quite a good eye. That is until I see other people’s pictures, and I think : “Why didn’t I think of that?” Or I look at my own pictures, and wish I’d moved that bright green petrol can or wheelbarrow from the middle of the lawn. Or I wish I’d picked off that dead leaf before I clicked.

Fullscreen capture 31122012 083636.bmp-001

But apart from that I never read the camera instructions. They were on a CD, which involved me reading a load of text, and paying attention to something technical without showing me what to do and explaining it in an interesting way. Hence I don’t really understand all that aperture, shutter speed, ISO stuff, and I never have. Also I’m at that embarrassing stage where everyone thinks I know what I’m doing – so actually asking someone to tell you about depth of field is a bit of an obstacle.

I know Sue’s course is the answer. I watched just a little of one of the lectures and it was as if someone had just turned the lights on! So that’s my New Year’s resolution sorted – Flower Photography Course for me.

I know all of the tutors here at MyGardenSchool look forward to you joining us on some really great online gardening courses in 2013. The next online gardening courses start on 5th January so take a look and enrol now. Remember these online courses are a two way thing and we need your input. The more you put in the more you get out of them. You have direct online contact with your tutor and classmates throughout the month of the course and I guarantee it will be a great experience.

Happy New Year and see you in class....

Andy McIndoe

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