Student’s taking Horticulture to a new Level

Westmeath Community Development in association with SOLAS and Westmeath County Council provides some of the best facilities for students to practice horticultural excellence in the beautiful setting of Belvedere House, Gardens & Park.


Level 5 Horticulture Students: Back Row (L-R) Ross Sweeney. George Smyth, Sean Mullen, Martina Scally, Rimantas Plauska, Ger Pegman, Darren Lynch, Gareth Robinson, Bill Nally, Vincent McLaughlin, Adam Lawton Front Row (L-R) John Bastic, Gerry Kelly, Anne-Marie Fleming, Martin Duggan

Last year saw the students appeared in Dermot O’Neill’s Secret Garden, when they worked alongside the celebrity garden expert.

This year the student’s focus has been geared to developing parts of the Belvedere estate, most notably the Victorian Walled Garden and the landscaping of some of the banked areas towards the main entrance.

They have also engaged in the creation of a seed bank just like that at Kew Gardens in the UK. Seeds collected from mother stock all over the estate have been stored using methods which mimic nature’s dormancy. Each species has a unique set of instructions which requires logging and labelling for scientific purposes. The idea behind this is to create enough stock to replace the trees and shrubs of this great estate.


Along with this the students get to grow thousands of rare plants from seeds from all over the world. Recently the Victorian Glasshouse in the Walled Garden was restocked with Cymbidium Orchids which first appeared in the garden in the early 1900s when Mr. Bayliss, once Head Gardener at Belvedere , who in 1901 was commended in Country Life magazine for his beautiful collection.

Belvedere has all the facilities that any Horticultural course would need and is constantly evolving with the fine partnership that we have developed. The Manager of Belvedere House, Gardens & Park, Maurice Stenson said "Westmeath County Council and Westmeath Community Development Limited have established an excellent working relationship in respect of the SOLAS Horticultural Programme located at Belvedere.  Working closely with the Co-ordinators of the Horticultural Programme and the 17 Horticultural Students on site, provides mutually beneficial outcomes through various projects that have been undertaken on the Estate to date, including seed propagation, planting schemes within the Walled Garden and other innovative and collaborative projects on the Estate that can benefit Belvedere and the Students learning".

The programme has had a track record when it comes to the progression of students into employment and further education. Many students have gained employment and progressed to degree level at the Botanic Gardens and Blanchardstown IT in Dublin.



Anne-Marie Fleming in the Victorian Glasshouse at Belvedere House, Gardens & Park

Anne-Marie Fleming is one of two students that will be completing two weeks work placement in the Royal Botanic gardens, Kew, London. Anne-Marie said

“When I decided to attend the open day for the horticulture course I must admit I didn’t know what to expect. I was looking for something different and as a lover of nature and the outdoors I figured it might be up my street. I’m happy to say it has far exceeded my expectations. The course is run in a professional and very friendly manner and both the course Co-Ordinator Majella Maher and our Tutor John Smyth are extremely helpful in guiding everyone in the right direction. I have been hooked from day one and plan to go on to complete a degree course after gaining some valuable experience in “Kews Royal Botanic garden, London, as well as the beautiful gardens of Belvedere. I have met some wonderful people who I am happy to call my friends and have had one of the best experiences of my life. I would very highly recommend this course to anyone who feels they may be interested

The Level 5 FETAC major award programme is run over 50 weeks full time and includes modules such as plant science, soil science, plant identification and use, fruit and vegetable production and many more. The programme is sponsored by Westmeath Community Development in association with SOLAS and Westmeath County Council.

We are currently recruiting for our next programme in May 2014 and if you would like further information please contact the Co-Ordinator Majella Maher or call 087-7923349

Horticulture Tutor John Smyth, (Westmeath Community Development) and student Adam Lawton spreading mulch in Belvedere House, Gardens & Park.