Landscape gardening

Talented students prove they are among the best

Chris Shore preparing for his WorldSkills UK final build (photo thanks to Steve Burden Photography)

Chris Shore preparing for his WorldSkills UK national final build (photo thanks to Steve Burden Photography)

Three talented Reaseheath students proved they were among the best in the country by successfully competing in the WorldSkills UK national finals.

Garden landscaper Chris Shore and florists Fiona Davies and Robyn Longden battled it out in front of record crowds last week at The Skills Show, the nation’s largest skills and careers event.

Fiona Davies' final pieces from the competition

Fiona Davies’ final pieces from the competition

Although none brought back a medal, all three classed the show ‘an amazing experience’ and Robyn has been selected to join the potential squad for the next WorldSkills GB team. She and the other young people on the long list will be offered further training opportunities before final selection nearer the 2017 world finals, which will be held in Abu Dhabi.

Robyn will be encouraged to follow in the footsteps of Matt Beesley, a former Level 3 Diploma in Horticulture student who, with fellow team member Jonathan Gill from Northern Ireland, won GB’s first ever medal in landscape gardening at the WorldSkills final in Sao Paulo, Brazil this summer.

Robyn is a Level 3 Diploma in Floristry student while Fiona, who manages our Level 2 Diploma in Floristry course, is studying for her Level 5 Master Diploma in Professional Floristry. Chris has gained his Level 3 Diploma in Horticulture with us and has now progressed onto his Foundation Degree in Garden and Landscape Design. He was one of just six students or apprentices nationwide to qualify for the finals.

Our florists had to create five designs – a hand tied bouquet, a wreath, a bridal bouquet, a decorated lampshade and a pair of customised high heeled shoes – while Chris built a garden to plan which included hard and soft landscaping.

Robyn Longden competing at The Skills Show 2015

Robyn Longden competing at The Skills Show 2015

As well as supporting our competing students, we also took an impressive stand showcasing horticulture, floristry, countryside and environmental archaeology. The Skills Show, at the NEC Birmingham, attracted 80,000 visitors. Many colleagues who helped to staff the stand over the three days said that in their opinion it was the best event they had ever attended.


The Leaf

Reaseheath garden catches the eye at RHS Flower Show Tatton Park

Pupils from The Dingle Primary School, Haslington, enjoyed the limelight when they appeared on Reaseheath College’s eye catching garden at RHS Flower Show Tatton Park.

Thomas Atkinson, six, his seven year-old sister Beau, Poppy Beeson, eight, and seven year-old Ruby Deaville, who were dressed as ‘bug hunters’, posed on the garden with a giant aphid for photographers on press day.

The flower show, which showcases the best of British gardening talent, was enjoyed by 80,000 visitors before closing on Sunday (July 26). Reaseheath College, in Nantwich, a regular medal winner in previous years, chose this year to put on an educative feature so was not judged in the show garden category.

Beau Atkinson, Ruby Deaville, Poppy Beeson and Thomas Atkinson

Beau Atkinson, Poppy Beeson, Ruby Deaville and Thomas Atkinson from The Dingle Primary School with Reaseheath College’s giant aphid

In line with the RHS’s aim to inspire the younger generation into careers involving horticultural science and viable food production, the garden – called ‘The Leaf’, took visitors on an exploration through the structural layers of a leaf and showed how the plant might try to avoid predators.

The garden was sponsored by Pochin Construction, who are the contractors on Reaseheath’s £8.5 million national centre for horticulture, sustainability and environmental management which is currently being built. The giant aphid was manufactured by Nantwich firm Harbrook Engineering.

The garden itself was designed and built by Foundation Degree in Garden and Landscape Design undergraduates Matthew Kent, Nigel Barber and Sam Lawton. Matt said: “We wanted to step outside the box and design something which was young and interesting. We really enjoyed the reaction of visitors when they were viewing the garden.”

RHS Robyn Longden

Floristry student Robyn Longden shows off the RHS Tatton Park Floristry College of the Year award

Reaseheath floristry students were also celebrating after winning the RHS Tatton Park Floristry College of the Year Competition for the second year running.

The prestigious competition is open to UK based floristry colleges and training providers and showcases the talent of students.

Reaseheath’s victorious team were Level 3 Diploma in Floristry students Carol Edgington, Robyn Longden and Rachel Collinson-Fletcher, who were supported by Head of Floristry Sue Poole.

The students, who were commended by Chairman of Judges Ian Lloyd for their contemporary design skills and for the impeccable condition of their flowers and foliage, have now qualified for the national finals at the Chelsea Flower Show 2016. Reaseheath’s student team took the ‘runner-up’ title at Chelsea this year.

The challenge at Tatton was to create four designs which represented ‘Musical Through Time’. Reaseheath’s florists chose ‘My Fair Lady’ as their theme and created a hat, a wired bouquet, a buffet table arrangement and an arrangement for the entrance of the theatre.

As well as winning the college competition they also won a silver gilt medal for their stand.

Ian Lloyd, who is a senior RHS floristry judge, said: “The stand was immaculate and the finish and presentation were excellent. The whole exhibit was a real credit to Reaseheath’s students and all the judges were extremely impressed.”

Three Reaseheath horticulture students also contested the WorldSkills UK Landscape Gardening semi finals at RHS Flower Show Tatton Park. Chris Shore, 20, who has just completed his Level 3 Extended Diploma in Horticulture, qualified for the national finals, to be held at The Skills Show in November.

Reaseheath was also one of partners on the Cheshire’s Gardens of Distinction exhibit and ran a series of demonstrations in the Discover and Grow section.

Hydroponics Greenhouse 2

Horticultural Students get to grip with Climate Change Plants

What an amazing day! The Horticulture department was contacted last week by a local private gardening team keen to see the  amassed collection of subtropical plant material go to a good home if it was possible to salvage it before the frosts hit. The estate are reclaiming the border within a large walled fruit and vegetable garden for production of more diverse edible crops. This type of plant material is gaining popularity in the UK so it is vital our learners access them…normally through visits to Botanical Gardens or Study tours but not any more…

It was all hands on deck with teams of First and Second year Extended Diploma and Subsidiary Diploma level 3 Horticulture working with First Year Foundation Degree in Garden Design out on site in the Cheshire garden with guidance from teaching staff small student teams worked on areas of the 30 meter long border unearthing all sorts of exotic rare plant species, it was like letting us loose in a sweet shop!   Identifying the best methods of lifting and storing plants ranging from 3m tall banana palms and abutilons to a diverse range of aromatic salvias, fan palms, bird of paradise flowers and angels trumpets with plants from Australasia, Africa and South America it was jam packed full of learning new names and new forms!  In between squeezing the plants into trailers and ferrying them back to Glasshouse 2 as an impromptu  production space, we also managed to have grand tour of the gardens with beautiful structure and such a diverse range of features and plant specimens. Offers of work experience and specialised learning opportunities were also developed as well as experiencing working to high standards of workmanship in multidisciplinary teams.

Group of students sorting out the plants

Hydroponics Greenhouse

Once back at college we set about potting up the plant material using composted green waste produced here at Reaseheath. Work on this will continue for the next  few days and then the task of propagation lead by expert Neil Bebbington will start meeting many assessment outcomes as well as producing some really exciting plant material.  The plants will provide a valuable resource for developing propagation skills and much of the planting will be used to furnish the new horticultural ‘Food Futures and Environment Building’ to being ideally suited for the new microclimate that the courtyard will provide and providing sustainable interior planting  to help enhance the interior learning environment.

Male student potting a plant

Students potting the plants

We hope to  share and swap our college propagated plants with regional establishments and are keen to provide propagation support to regional gardens  as we develop our diversity of species on site to ensure Reaseheath students work with one of the broadest range of species outside of a  Botanical Garden setting in the UK.

Student Jsss Collier works on the memorial bed

The Great War remembered

Dave Mason with Horticulture students

Dave Mason with Level 2 Horticulture students

Reaseheath’s longest serving staff member, gardener Dave Mason has installed a commemorative border next to the Reaseheath College flag pole to mark the centenary year of the beginning of World War One. Working with Level 2 Diploma in Horticulture students, Dave firstly sourced and installed local Jurassic sandstone around the edge of the border before laying  a weed suppressing membrane over the raised ground. He then helped the students mark out the message ‘1914 – 1918 THE GREAT WAR’ accurately before planting Pyrethrum in the gaps to form the letters.

Student Jsss Collier works on the memorial bed

Student Jess Collier works on the memorial bed

Said Dave, “it was something which I felt was important for us to commemorate as a way to help teach students of the sacrifices made by the soldiers. Many of whom were their age when they fought and died. It is a long time since we had an example of carpet bedding, which means the border also creates a new teaching facility for the horticulture department.”

The area only takes about half an hour a fortnight to cut and tidy around the letters during the growing season. Dave will continue to maintain the border with the support of students on work duties throughout the academic year.

By James Grundy