Tuesday, September 18, 2012 - 14:30

A group of London gardeners who created the acclaimed rooftop garden at London’s Southbank Centre are visiting the Eden Project in Cornwall to study for a professional horticulture qualification.

The group, known as Grounded Ecotherapy, come from East London’s Providence Row Housing Association, who provide housing and support services. Many of the gardeners have been homeless or have had problems with alcohol or drugs.

Members of Grounded have previously worked with Eden’s landscape and horticulture team on big projects such as two show gardens at the esteemed Chelsea Flower Show in 2009 and 2010.

They have also created a rooftop garden at London’s Queen Elizabeth Hall as part of the Southbank Centre’s Festival of Britain 60th anniversary celebrations last year, which has been further developed for this year’s Festival of the World.

Eight members of Grounded have completed the first half of the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh/Eden Project Certificate in Practical Horticulture, taught by Eden’s expert horticulturists. They will be completing the second half next month (October).

The course for Grounded members is being paid for by money raised at Eden’s Big Green Quiz, which took place in London in May this year.

Paul Pulford founded the Grounded group with his friend Paul Davies in 2002 when the pair were living in a Providence Row Housing Association hostel for homeless people with drug and alcohol addictions.

They worked together on creating a garden in a concreted area behind the hostel and the group blossomed from there, now boasting 20 members who work on prestigious gardening and landscaping projects around the capital.

Paul Pulford said: “Gardening is helping us in our recovery and giving us a life. Now we're all gaining a recognised qualification and everyone's learning loads. Having a professional qualification will be brilliant.

“I don't have any diplomas or degrees but I will have a Certificate in Practical Horticulture and be taken seriously as a professional gardener. I'm loving every minute of it and can't wait to come back in October. The Eden Project is wicked and all the Eden Project staff we've met are beautiful people.”

Paul Davies said: “I'm a recovering alcoholic and addict so this is rehabilitating for me. I'm learning a lot and, as well as teaching me new things, the course is teaching me how much I already know.

“It's given me structure in life, goals, aims and it's keeping me busy. When I was younger I wanted to be a mechanic but I was never really into it. I actually enjoy gardening and it doesn't feel like a job, it's something I do because I love it.

“I can prove to myself that I can go all day without drinking and doing other stuff which wrecked my life and I'm learning so much. It's a privilege to be invited down to Eden to do this course, everyone's really friendly and it's been a great time.”

The certificate is a programme of eight one-day practical gardening courses taking place at the main Eden Project site and its nearby nursery.

The courses can be enjoyed one-by-one or as a complete course, and are ideal for anyone who wants to hone their gardening skills. They are designed for keen amateurs, those beginning a career in horticulture or thinking of a career change. Sir Tim Smit, Eden’s Chief Executive, Development, presented certificates to the most recent graduates in a ceremony in Eden’s Mediterranean Biome last month (August).

Participants of all ages and abilities can choose to undertake the series of eight hands-on informative, one-day short courses either together as an entire nine-month programme or alternatively as individual units.

To find out more about the Certificate in Practical Horticulture, go to: