After more than 35 years of service as an intelligence officer in the air force, retired lieutenant-colonel Susan Beharriell is turning her attention to the ground — more specifically, her garden.


Beharriell is one of what instructor Frank Kershaw calls “the hobbyists” studying gardening at George Brown.


“They just want a great garden at home,” says Kershaw. “Others are potentially thinking of a career change. They’d like to get into gardening. Then there are people who just have a general interest. They may have retired or may have more time on their hands. There’s a lot more do-it-yourselfers now.”


The program caters to all. “It covers a base level understanding up to doing plants et cetera,” says Kershaw of the two-year-old garden design certificate offered in partnership with the Toronto Botanical Gardens. Students are required to complete four compulsory courses and one of two (soon to be three) electives.


The program’s alignment with the Toronto Botanical Gardens allows for a mixing of experts and novices. “The TBG has a wonderful horticultural library, new gardens as well as members and interested parties. I think it’s nice to have a community college in that sort of relationship,” says Kershaw. His new course in the fall will be taught at the 777 Lawrence Ave. E. location.

While the program appeals to people with different ambitions and expertise in gardening, it also caters to their needs. Container gardening “is very popular with city gardeners,” says Kershaw. “It’s very valuable for people who have a balcony or townhouse garden.”

Similarly, edible gardening in the city is a hit because “it’s very environmental and ecological, which is important now,” Kershaw says. “Growing vegetables and fruits also aligns well with George Brown’s culinary pursuits, which are so popular.”

For Beharriell, who lives outside of Toronto, city limitations aren’t a problem. “I have two acres so I thought I would learn to (garden) properly.”

In her case, basic garden design was enough. “This was a personal development aimed at designing my own garden and I know have the sufficient tools to do that,” she says.

In the spring, Beharriell will get started on the garden she designed with the help of Kershaw and her peers. “The Toronto regional conservation authority will be coming in a matter of weeks to plant trees and shrubs for the birds and the bees,” she says. “I’m putting in a water feature pond, again for the birds and the wildlife.”