‘Anxiety and depression is just one type of mental illness – it was my illness. I’d suffered two severe episodes, each lasting a year, the first in 2005, the other about five years ago. The illness was crippling. I was unable to work, read a book, go to the shops, drive a car, go for a walk with friends. I was trying to move home at the time but had to abandon the idea as I couldn’t cope. It was a horrible time but slowly, without realising it, I got better again.
After several sessions of CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy) my counsellor suggested Cherry Tree. I soon learned that it was a special place for many people, and it was gradually becoming my special place too.
With time I got stronger and enquired about the RHS course, which I knew people enjoyed there. After a chat with Helen, one of the staff members, I was delighted to be offered the challenge to undertake the RHS Level 1 Award in Practical Horticulture. A RHS qualification – it sounded so grand! The course ran over a year which meant I needed to commit to one day a week to attend the class and be prepared to also study at home.
So, on a Wednesday morning, along with five other Volunteers, we sat down in the Cherry Tree classroom. From then on, our ring-binders expanded with information that we gathered throughout the course. Helen taught us well and we had interesting and topical discussions. Sue, a retired teacher, also helped us. We went out, off site, collecting soil samples and testing them for pH levels and soil texture types. The course modules covered learning about pests and diseases, how to prepare soil for sowing and planting; how to collect, prepare and establish propagation material for plants to grow in the right environment and how to identify different categories of plants by their botanical names.
Focusing on the course gave me the confidence to learn again. I was able to participate in a small group and I found I could sit, listen and concentrate. I started to put what I learned into practice at home in my own garden, taking cuttings of my favourite salvia and giving them to friends.
Last year I finally moved house but soon realised I needed to cut down on a stressful commute time and decided to seek employment closer to home. Various vacancies popped up, but one particularly caught my eye – an EPOS Administrator. Lots of Excel spreadsheet work for a garden centre group at their head office sounded like my dream job, combining my new-found love of horticulture and my accountancy admin experience. I soon submitted my CV which was now proudly furnished with my latest RHS Level 1 qualification. I was offered an interview and talked about Cherry Tree, my love of gardening and spreadsheets – and I was offered the job!
Part of my work is to identify plants from a supplier’s order, which shows the botanical names, and then to categorise them for uploading on the tills. Okay, I fully admit, I search the internet for the names half the time, but the world has so many plants! Having said that, I do have a good idea which part of the world they originate from, who discovered them, why they may only be suitable as houseplants in this country and, more importantly, I feel confident I can pronounce most of them!
Thank you, Helen. Thank you, RHS. Thank you, Cherry Tree and friends! ‘