Gardening: Cuttings

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EARLIER THIS year I wrote about Alison Pringle, who threw in her life as an artist and etcher to retrain as a gardener by way of the National Trust's apprenticeship scheme. The Trust is now seeking applicants for its new intake of students, to start work this September. There are 10 places for people of 16-19 and two for adult trainees. Adults start their training either at Anglesey Abbey in Cambridgeshire or at Hinton Ampner in Hampshire.

The apprenticeship programme lasts for three years. Students get paid and the training combines practical skills and experience gained at Trust gardens with block release study courses held at Bicton College in Devon. Apprenticeships are available in Trust gardens in Cornwall, Devon, Suffolk, Warwickshire, north Wales, Wiltshire, Dorset, Derbyshire and Kent. There has never been a better time to become a gardener, and this is a Rolls- Royce training. For details contact John McKennall (01208 265245).

ROBERT FORTUNE, the plant collector who brought the kumquat to Britain and introduced tea to India, has become one of only a handful of horticulturists to be honoured by an English Heritage blue plaque. It marks the three- storied, stucco-faced house at 9 Gilston Road, London SW10, where Fortune lived for more than 20 years until his death in 1880. Fortune travelled in China, Japan, Java and the Philippines, surviving storms, fevers and pirate attacks. As well as the kumquat he introduced tree peonies, the golden larch, the fan palm and many rhododrendrons and azaleas. Think of him when you plant Weigela florida, Jasminum nudiflorum, Prunus triloba or Cryptomeria japonica. They are all his plants.

DOES FENG Shui matter in the garden? Not as much as decent soil and a sheltered aspect, I'd say, but Roni Jay, author of Feng Shui in Your Garden (Thorsons, pounds 9.99) disagrees. If you too think that the straight lines of trees are improved by zig-zag paper hangings (to calm the ch'i), this is compulsory reading. No garden can have good feng shui unless it contains water. But will I ever get around to making the boat-shaped basket entwined with blue ribbon to float on the water and steady the flow of this endlessly demanding ch'i? I can't see it.