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MyGardenSchool Organic Gardening course

For the past 4 weeks I have been taking part in The Organic Garden course by My Garden School. What a wonderful course it was and how the lecturer, Stephanie Donaldson made everything clear and concise and that organic gardening does not need a masters degree but a clear and practical mind to know how to work with mother Earth.

I really enjoyed logging in every Saturday morning and downloading that weeks lecture. Stephanie’s lesson is a comfortable 20 minutes and the assignments are fun to do. They are current and practical and relevant to your own garden. You just want to jump into the garden and get things done!

I have become more aware of the impact I make on this Earth and my gardening practises and output will be more thoughtful and will benefit my family. By the end of this year I will be eating healthy vegetables, fruits and herbs from my garden. Organically grown with no chemical pesticides and using only what I can obtain locally – eventually planting my own seeds in the future.

I have learnt about the benefits of all the organic material in my back yard. How to make compost and how important the soil is. Here are the 4 weeks that have kept me busy.

Week 1 – The Philosophy of Organic Gardening

Week 1 Assignment

Week 2 – The Basic Techniques of Organic Gardening

Week 2 Assignment

Week 3 – Pest and Disease Control in the Organic Garden


Week 4 – The Virtuous Circle


If you are interested in doing any of the online courses,  MyGardenSchool is your unique online horticultural classroom. They bring you gardening courses taught by the world’s most acclaimed authors.  You can now learn about gardening directly from the experts,  from the comfort of your own home, wherever you are in the world. You have one-to-one personal contact with your tutor, through your virtual classroom.

Join if you are interested in doing a four week online gardening course. Book now for August 6th!

Have fun and happy organic gardening!

Christine's garden Design Gardening Courses Home page features

Final Assignment for the Garden Design Course

My final assignment of the Garden Design Course and I’m left hanging for more! I’ve thoroughly enjoyed learning about garden design and feel I’ve only touched on it ever so slightly. I might at a later stage invest in doing a longer, more thorough course in garden design. Not because I want to become a garden designer, far from it – dabbling around in my own garden is enough for me – but because I’ve loved every minute of it.

In this final week of the Planting Design course I’ve been doing through My Garden School, the forth and final chapter is entiled “Seasonal Colour & Excitement”. We are introduced to the work of Dutch garden designer, Piet Oudolf. Oh my … that opened up a whole new world for me! If you haven’t yet spent any time looking at his work, I strongly recommend that you do. I spent a few happy hours looking at his gardens (all online of course – ah the joys of the Internet!) and I’m now a huge fan!

I’ve spent a lot of time reading about his work and found this statement he made in a post on which gave me food for thought … “He feels that most clients still want immediate results with gardens: that they are lacking in patience and are not willing to observe and enjoy the beauty of a garden maturing over time. For Piet, the public may offer positive comments about his work but they are still reticent about fully embracing it”. (Reference here). This is something I need to practise – patience! I want my garden to “hurry up and mature”. This was a reminder to me to just enjoy it and not be in such a hurry.

This weeks assignment

Screen shots of my plant choices for this weeks assignment, details below

[one_half]Assignment 4[/one_half]

[one_half_last]Assignment 4 Screen 2[/one_half_last]

So this weeks assignment was: “You are planning a small ‘naturalistic’ planting scheme. Use the work of the Dutch designer Piet Oudolf as a source of inspiration for your design”. We were given certain guidelines of plants to choose (hedges, bulbs, grasses etc). and had to list them all with pictures once again. The screen captures show part of my final assignment.

I really enjoyed doing this. It took absolutely hours to decide on my choices. I based it on my whole back garden with just the trees in situ and nothing else and planned it on the basis of it having half sun and half part shade. I am almost tempted to rip everything up and start all over again!. Just kidding of course, but I might incorporate some of what I came up with in the future and the area that was destroyed two weeks ago because of the new french drain will be getting a make-0ver with some of these choices.

Piet Oudolf’s photostream on

Barbie – this is for you! (and anyone else who is not familiar with his work). Prepare to be amazed! I’ve spent hours just gazing at his gardens, wondering if I will ever be able to conjure up such magic with plants…

In closing …

I read an interview the New York Times did with Piet Oudolf. They asked him what his advice is for the beginner to which he replied …

Experience starts the moment you start to like gardening. You can’t do it right the first time. You can’t even do it right in a few years. You always see the next step you have to do. Start simply, putting good combinations of plants together, and work from there. You have to go through all the steps. You cannot skip any lessons. That is honest. It’s hard work. But you get something back, that’s the good thing. It’s like raising children. You try to do your best“.

Happy Gardening!

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Christine's garden Design Gardening Courses Miscellaneous

My Gardening Course – this weeks lecture and assignment

In the continuing story of the Garden Design Course I’ve been doing through My Garden School, last week (which I told you about here) we learnt about Colour and Design Principles and this week was all about The Role of Plants in the Planting Scheme. I’m learning a lot. But I have to say that I am  surprised by how much I actually already know. After the first weeks lecture I felt very out of my depth, but these last two weeks lectures and assignments have been very rewarding and actually lots of fun to do.

This week we learnt about structural planting, ornamental planting, focal-point planting, ground cover and functional planting. The assignment we were given was broken up into 4 separate parts as follows:

1. You are planting up an urban courtyard and need to select five trees for a long season of interest. Name and describe one tree that will provide each of the following.a. Spring blossom b. Coloured foliage c. Autumn fruit or berries d. Autumn coloured foliage e. Beautiful coloured bark.
2. In a garden the structural planting provides the framework or backbone for the more ornamental planting. Describe the visual and horticultural characteristics of shrubs that are used as structural planting.
3. Name at least six shrubs that can be used as structural planting in a garden.
4. You are selecting ornamental shrubs for a mixed border. Name and describe one shrub that you might choose for each of the following. a. Coloured winter stems b. Winter flowers c. Summer flowers d. Coloured foliage e. Autumn fruits or berries.

Below are screen captures of my illustrated answers to questions 1 and 4. The other two were written answers (not illustrated) so I haven’t included them.

I was a bit stumped on one of the questions – “You are selecting ornamental shrubs for a mixed border. Name and describe one shrub that you might choose for each of the following – Coloured winter stems”. For the life of me I couldn’t think of one. I like Pittosporum nigrescens for its light foliage that plays up so well on the dark branches, but its more of a tree, not really a shrub, and I didn’t think dark branches alone were such a big draw. I finally did lots of googling and came up with Red Twig Dogwood, but to be honest I don’t even know if they are available here – I have never consciously noticed them at a nursery. Does anyone have any suggestions? What would you use specifically for its coloureds stems?

Course Assignment

Next week is “Seasonal Colour & Excitement”. I’m looking forward to getting my notes and the video lecture.

I’m really enjoying this and am seriously considering signing up to do a second course with them. I just can’t decide which one to do. My current choices are:
Gardening with Climbers & Clematis or Flower Photography.

Which one would you choose?

Christine's garden Gardening Courses Home page features Miscellaneous

Planting Design Gardening Course progress report

I thought it was about time I wrote a post about the Gardening Course I’ve been busy with. I signed up for the “Planting Design” Course by Hilary Thomas with My Garden School. The course is a four week online course with lecture notes and video tutorials and students are encouraged to complete an assignment after each weeks learning module.

I found the first week very hard going as I was way out of my depth. The module was “Selecting plants based on form, texture and habit”. Whilst I understood everything, the assignment was just too much for me – I couldn’t do it at all. I battled with photographs – nothing looked right, actually everything I put together just looked ridiculous so I gave up on it. I decided to give the second assignment a try before throwing in the towel – and I thoroughly enjoyed doing the two assignments we were given for this week. Perhaps I am a little less out of my depth on these latest two. I’ve added them below – I’m pretty sure that seasoned gardeners will find many flaws in my plant groupings and will think they are amateurish, but I promise you, compared to my first attempt (the one I tried to do and gave up on), these are masterpieces and I’m quite proud of them. Once I approached them as something I might actually try in my garden, it seemed to flow quite easily.

My Assignments

[one_half]ColourContrast and Harmony[/one_half]

[one_half_last]Contrast and harmonyColour[/one_half_last]

1). The second assignment was called Colour (the first photograph above), the brief was: “Using pictures from magazines, catalogues or books design a contrasting colour scheme for Spring interest. Select three plants that have blue / violet flowers and three that have yellow flowers”. Now yellow is not a colour I have in my garden and I battled a little thinking outside of my garden scenario on this one. Finally I just pictured a space and how I might fill it if I was forced to use yellow and blue and … well that’s what I chose. I’m not sure the Iris works with the roses but I thought they looked pretty together. What I really wanted was something small and “breathy”, in yellow. Something like Guara. But they don’t come in yellow as far as I know. Is there any yellow equivalent? What would you suggest?

2). For the first assignment called Contrast and harmony (the second photograph above), the brief was: “Select five plants that are evergreen and would make an interesting group if planted together. Consider the plants for contrast and harmony of form and texture. Once you have decided on your plants either, draw a simple sketch showing how the plant group will look or use pictures from books or magazines. Name the plants” Once I thought about the plants I have growing in my garden that work well together and that I love, I came up with the grouping of Lamium, Acorus gramineus (variegata) and dwarf nandina pygmaea and though about what I still want to add to this grouping and remembered how much I have been admiring the Caladiums in the gardens of fellow bloggers … and bam! Then my assignment flowed. I had some difficulty finding good photos to use (the whole scale thing throws me – but we were told not to worry about that – just to put them together on the page), and I think it looks quite nice(ish). Lamium and Acorus look gorgeous together in my garden, not as good on the pictures above.

I’ve just seen that my next set weeks lecture notes and videos are available. This week we are learning about “The Role of Plants in the Planting Scheme”. I’m looking forward to it. I hope I manage to get through this one.

Happy Gardening

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Back to School

Back to School – we sign up for Gardening Courses: Both Barbie and I are very excited – we have been offered an opportunity to do distance learning gardening courses via MyGardenSchool is a unique online horticultural classroom offering various gardening courses taught by some of the world’s most acclaimed authors. “MyGardenSchool provides you with your very own online horticultural classroom to help you create your dream garden.  Whether you want to grow organic vegetables, create enviable flower borders, learn about flower photography or simply give a good home to egg laying chickens, you will have personal contact with some of the world’s top tutors, receiving inspirational lessons, brought into your home digitally”.

We were very excited to receive this offer and after “sleeping on it” have both decided to accept, as we are keen to learn and think this will be a wonderful opportunity for us. After battling a bit to choose which course I want to do – for me it was a choice between “Understanding Garden Roses by David Austin” (Tutor is Michael Marriot) and “Designing with Plants” (Tutor is Caroline Tilston), but after watching the intro video on the website I’ve finally decided on doing the course on Designing with Plants. Barbie is signed up to do the Recycling in the Garden course (Tutor is Angela Youngman).

The next courses start on 28 May and once we start will be blogging about the experience. The courses comprise 4 weekly lectures via video tutorial and in written form. We will be getting set assignments which we will need to upload to MyGardenSchool where they are then marked by the tutors.  According the the site; Using the latest multi-media technology, the courses comprise high quality videos and visuals as well as expert and interesting content.

I think it’s going to be a lot of fun and … well you know we have a lot to learn, so can only be beneficial to us.

[one_half]The Home PageMy Garden[/one_half]

[one_half_last]The Courses PageMy Garden[/one_half_last]

If you can’t wait to see what we have to say about the courses and feel like joining in, visit their website at My Garden School or to see courses available go to Courses available from My Garden School. I know there are at least two other courses I will consider doing after I do this first one if I am happy with the way this first one goes. I’d really love to learn more about Garden Roses and the courses Flower Photography and Getting to Grips with Climbers also interest me.

Happy Gardening