Garden expert cultivates students’ skills

Birmingham Metropolitan College students based at Birmingham Botanical Gardens got the chance to cultivate their horticulture skills recently when renowned gardening expert, Jessica “Jekka” McVicar, agreed to share some of her knowledge as a guest lecturer. 

Darren Rudge, Lecturer at the Botanical Gardens, said:  “The Royal Horticultural Society has asked our team to build a themed garden based on spices and students have entered the Beautiful Borders Competition taking place at BBC Gardeners’ World Live in June – and we looked to find a suitably inspirational guide to give us an insight into how best we can achieve this.  We were absolutely delighted to welcome Jekka and really pleased she took time out to share her valuable experience with our students.”

Jekka, who owns Jekka’s Herb Farm at Alveston, near Bristol, has the largest collection of culinary herbs in the UK with more than 500 different varieties.  She has been awarded 62 Royal Horticultural Society Gold Medals for her organic herb displays, including 14 at the Chelsea Flower Show, and Best Floral Exhibit at Hampton Court in 2007 and 2008.  Jekka has also published several successful books and contributes to a number of national publications as well as appearing on television shows including Mary Berry Cooks.

Students studying a range of courses including Diplomas in Horticulture and Conservation as well as Apprenticeships, were given a presentation on different varieties of herbs and spices from all over the world, in particular, those grown in the tropics and the Far East, and how they could be used – whether it be for cooking or medicinal purposes.

Jekka McVicar said:  “I was really excited by the invitation to come along and speak to students about herbs and spices – obviously this is my passion and it’s wonderful to be able to share my knowledge with people who are studying the Art & Science of Horticulture, helping them to cultivate their skills both in the classroom and in the garden.”

Student Toby Robinson added,  “It was a fascinating insight into the wide variety of herbs and spices, many of which I hadn’t heard of, and it was really interesting to see how spices have travelled across the world from one area to another.”

Birmingham Metropolitan College offers a variety of lectures, evening talks, short courses for adults as well as courses for school leavers and apprenticeships at its Birmingham Botanical Gardens Study Centre where students can study in unique surroundings amongst 7,000 plants at the world famous site.