For the gardening community of Essex, the extreme cold of last winter left a trail of devastation for both amateur and professional growers. Weeks of freezing conditions meant many garden plants did not make it through. The parallels with the economic downturn that saw business closures is striking and has left many growers counting the cost of their losses. Unusually, and in spite of these extreme winter weather conditions, a banana plant (Musa basjoo) – normally a denizen of sub-tropical China and Japan - has not only survived but has actually flowered at Writtle College this year; bearing testament to the knowledge and skill of the College horticultural team.
Under the advice of horticultural experts at the College, the plant was protected by packing straw around last year’s stems before wrapping them in a layer of hessian as a frost protective cover; this only finally being unwrapped as temperatures soared in the unusually mild Spring.
Getting a banana plant through a harsh winter is not a feat unique to Writtle College or even unique to the notably warm county of Essex. Getting one to flower on the other hand, especially given the severity of the preceding winter is cause for celebration among the horticultural team – another accomplishment alongside the forthcoming horticultural portfolio re-launch in September this year.
The portfolio re-launch surrounds the undergraduate horticultural courses and strongly focuses on the importance and evolving role of horticulture in these changing times; something particularly relevant to the 2012 academic year.
The new curriculum has been designed to provide a broad range of subject matter whilst still allowing students the freedom to explore subjects of particular interest to them throughout the course of study.
Horticulture is a heavily applied discipline, but in order to create even further added benefit to the re-launched portfolio there will now be increased opportunity for students to undertake more practical based modules. Extra-curricular projects and clubs have always been available to horticultural students, and from September 2011 a renewed emphasis will be placed on encouraging more students to take advantage and to get involved.
To support students focused on topping up their degree with additional qualifications, there will be discounts available on a number of short courses and certificates.
Mick Lavelle, Course Scheme Manager for Horticulture spoke about the forthcoming portfolio changes saying: “The new curriculum aims to ensure that every graduate gains a fundamental core of specialist knowledge as well as a broad overview and insight into this exciting and rapidly developing industry. It was developed in conjunction with industrial representatives, present and former students, and has been designed to build upon the strengths of previous programmes whilst introducing a robust framework of study that meets the needs of today’s marketplace. The world faces many challenges over the next decade and beyond. We want Writtle graduates to contribute by providing solutions and to remain at the forefront of this fascinating and rewarding profession”