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RHS Level 2 - is it worthwhile?

(11 Posts)
yellowDahlia Tue 17-Oct-17 14:19:35

Looking for some advice about RHS qualifications - I'm plodding my way through Level 2 using some (not very good) online course notes and the Charles Adams Principals of Horticulture text book but getting a bit worried that I'm wasting my time. I'm really enjoying the content and learning the real basics of horticulture but not sure I'm really retaining the information. I started in January and have only progressed through the first module and a bit of the second as I'm finding it difficult to find time to study - work, parenting/home life and doing actual gardening sort of gets in the way! I looked at a past paper last night and knew that if I was to sit an exam tomorrow I would most likely fail sad.

So I guess I wanted to ask how worthwhile you have found it? Does it/has it helped you progress your gardening life or career? I have one eye on a possible career change so that's one of the main reasons I'm trying to get the qualification. But I also want to get a little sideline going with a back garden nursery, growing and propagating plants for sale, probably at local markets etc.

And I'm also redesigning and maintaining my own garden - all of which is an ongoing learning curve anyway!

So I guess I'm worried I'm spreading myself too thin and wondering if I should put the qualification on hold - I don't feel in any way ready to take an exam...on the other hand it helps me to feel like I'm taking steps towards my dream job even though I can't make the leap just yet.

Any advice? Has anyone found it genuinely helpful in changing career or progressing any kind of horticultural work?

creepingbuttercupdrivesmemad Fri 20-Oct-17 16:50:46

I can't answer your question, Dahlia, but I am doing the course too, so am interested in the responses!

creepingbuttercupdrivesmemad Fri 20-Oct-17 16:52:43

The way I am doing it, I have the option of exams in Feb and june. Could you just take a couple of the exams first off, to see how you get on? I was originally planning to do half in Feb and half next June, but I have been advised that that is too much - it IS a demanding course, isn't it???

yellowDahlia Sun 22-Oct-17 11:49:19

Oh that’s interesting creepingbuttercup I had assumed that’s what most people would do - half now, half later. But you’re saying that’s too much at once? That’s reassuring in a way - I wouldn’t have to cram in quite so much study to do half the exams in February! I guess I’m at this point because it feels like crunch time - I either have to knuckle down and aim for Feb or let it go for now. Still not really sure which is best...

IamSpartacusTheGardener Mon 23-Oct-17 16:57:19

I have level 2 Principles and Practice of Horticulture acquired in the last 18 months. I'm working full time as a gardener running my own business. What do you want to know? I'll help if I can.

yellowDahlia Mon 23-Oct-17 19:23:08

Hi Spartacus just wondering if you've found the qualification useful or not I suppose? Were you working as a gardener before you trained? Or have you got the qualification while working? And do you think it's helped you progress?

I'd be coming at it from a different angle I suppose - as someone looking to enter horticulture/change career and I don't know if I should be putting my efforts into studying and getting a qualification or simply getting my hands dirty in the garden!

IamSpartacusTheGardener Mon 23-Oct-17 20:22:46

Hi yellow,

There's a long answer coming up!

My previous experience was a 5 year apprenticeship on large properties and estates in the 80's. I had a regular career up until 2 years ago when I decided to do something I loved. I started working as a gardener and at the same time signed up for the level 2 Principles course 1 day per week. This is the biggie. 30 weeks with a recommended 6 hours additional study per week. At the end you sit 8 papers over two days. This was our perspective when the course started.

Of course, reality soon kicked in and for most on the course the 6 hours was hit or miss and probably closer to 2 hours! The days on the course were fantastic. I learnt so much! Every day I was coming home and sharing interesting facts with my DW. I took notes and there were copious handouts. As the weeks passed by it became obvious that we were accumulating a ton of information and none of it could be discarded as we had all the exams at the end. Furthermore, in the exams we would be required to memorise and provide proper plant names in Latin in various groups and subgroups I.e 10 evergreen trees, 20 plants suitable for summer bedding, 5 alpines, etc, etc. My plant list extended to 150 plant names. All of us on the course ignored this elephant in the corner until we were into the 3rd term. For me the only way to cope with this list was to have an immovable deadline! In the end there was little problem with the lists and I was quite angry that we used so few plant names having swotted the lot.

The exams were divided over two days. Short exams were 40 mins 2 per day. Long exams 80 mins 2 per day. It is mentally fatiguing to get through the two days. To pass you need 60% min in every exam.

Exam in June. Retakes in Feb. I was lucky and passed all first time. Pass rate for the group was around 70% I believe.

The level 2 practical was half a day per week. Practical tests were things like seeding, double-digging, pruning, etc. Plant ID tests were familiar I.e. 10 evergreen trees, 5 deciduous shrubs, etc but this time you have the 10 or 5 samples in front of you and you must identify each one correctly. Having done the Principles course this one was straightforward.

Get the two of them and you get a diploma - one of either gives you a certificate. Most people who were able did both courses at the same time. I did them a year apart because I'm an idiot.

I worked as a gardener all the time I was doing the courses.

I was competent before I started the courses but I was not confident. What the course gave me was confidence. I would also say that I knew WHAT to do around a garden but after the course I also knew WHY.

If your aim is a career switch then I think you need to find out if you can take the physical grind of the job before you commit your time and money to the course.

If you want to do the courses for personal development and you have the time and money then go for it! You will learn so much.

Finally, at my college the day course cost £900 and the half day course £600. Add in lost earnings and it is a significant investment!

Note: the day course can be done over 2 years as an evening class. The positive is that you cover each module then do the test. So you can discard stuff as you go along and only need to revise the current topic.

Phew! I think I covered everything. I hope this helps you.

Best rgds,

Jasminedes Mon 23-Oct-17 20:40:19

It sounds like a hard course, and that you are doing it solo, without proper classes? That might not be realistic. But cuedos to you for tsking on so much new knowledge, you are probably gaining from it anyway.

yellowDahlia Mon 23-Oct-17 21:16:37

Wow, spartacus that's a thorough answer! Thanks for taking the time to tell me your experience. It certainly sounds intensive.

If I had the time and money I would love to do this via lessons/practical sessions, however I'm lacking in both - the other problem is that there's no college nearby which runs a course like these, not even evening classes, otherwise I would be seriously considering it, as I know I would benefit from a more structured approach.

It's interesting that you make the distinction between feeling competent/confident and not only knowing how to do things but why - that's something I've definitely noticed with what I've studied so far! Although I'm finding plant biology a real challenge, it's also really helping me to understand how plants work and how to care for them properly.

But...your response is making me wonder if I'm taking on too much at this point in time, which I probably don't want to admit because I'm enjoying it and I see it as my ticket towards an eventual career change... although I don't know exactly what my role would be in horticulture...I don't think I would be a gardener for private gardens, although I wouldn't rule out working for an organisation or estate/house. My dream is to own/run a small nursery and that's something I'm planning to try and set up on a v small basis and run as a sideline to my 'day job'. Perhaps I need to focus on that for now and keep learning on the job, reading, researching and maybe I'll still have the opportunity to do some proper study in the future. Lots of food for thought, thanks to all who've listened to my rambling thoughts helped me work this out so far!

IamSpartacusTheGardener Mon 23-Oct-17 21:42:38

Just follow it as a hobby for now. It won't be any less interesting and you will still learn plenty of useful information. Btw the course book that goes with level 2 Principles is fantastic. The course pretty much follows it page for page.

Just an observation. 17 people on my course. IMO only 6 or 7 would actually be able to do the work. The others couldn't hack it in a million years but that wasn't a problem because they all wanted to be garden Designers! smile


yellowDahlia Mon 23-Oct-17 21:52:08

Haha, not for me - would be a great occupation but I don’t have the art skills and tbh I would much rather be up to my elbows in soil smile

I do have the book so no reason why I can’t keep reading it and learning but without the pressure of facing exams - at least for now anyway.

Well done to you for managing them all and holding down regular work!

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