I have been studying for my Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) Level 2 certificate online with the Academy for Distance Learning for a few months now, and I’ve learnt so much! I can identify most of the flowers I see on my daily travels, I finally understand how photosynthesis works and I have a new favourite house plant, Maidenhair spleenwort (Asplenium trichomanes).

One of the things I was not sure about at first was the Royal Horticultural Society student membership which comes free with the course. I am a hands-off wildlife-friendly kind of gardener, not a prissy, don’t-look-at-that-flower-so-hard-Margaret kind of gardener. This is unfortunate because the main benefit of RHS membership is free access to the National Gardens. Going to see plants so posh that they have monocles, and so tender that they need to be brought in at nights, does not really appeal to me.

At first, the RHS seemed to live up to my worst expectations. There was actually an advert in the membership handbook for a luxury train ride which I wouldn’t be surprised to meet Poirot on. However, the membership comes with some benefits which are really good.

First the RHS has a monthly magazine, creatively called The Garden. This gives me a bit of colour in my life through the winter months. Somehow, violets and nasturtiums and fuchsia bushes look less pretentious when you aren’t standing outside a manor house.

Second, you can get some cheap and viable seeds. The RHS Gardens collect some of their seeds each year, and sell them as mixes (members can get 12 packets for £8.50 which is pretty good).

Best of all, you can get free gardening support. You can send a letter or an email, or even make a phone call, and get a response within a couple of weeks. It is possible that I myself might lose access to this feature if I keep complaining to them about my little under-watered spleenwort, but it’s a good feature all the same. If you need to, you can even get a soil analysis done for £25. I will have to try to find an excuse to use this surface sometime in the next year because, “I’ve sent a soil sample off for analysis and they say that the fish head didn’t really help” would be such a perfect thing to drop into a boring conversation about prize-winning roses.

Photograph shows Maidenhair Spleenwort at Ambleside, Lake District.


Royal Horticultural Society membership comes free with the Academy for Distance Learning’s RHS gardening courses. As well as these benefits, the Academy’s courses are online or correspondence-based, self-paced and come with unlimited support. Sign up for Level 2 here.




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