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Example questions

Mock Examination Questions with outline response notes:

Botany & plant selection:


(a) Name THREE examples of plants suitable for winter interest         (3)

(b) Describe TWO features provided by each selected example         (6)

(c) State the meaning of the word praecox                                               (1)


Structure of response:

(a)  Any suitable three plants named with full botanical names, e.g. Cornus alba, Ilex aquifolium and Sarcococca confusa, are required to be given. Provide as much of the name as you can and remember that the genus should have a capital letter and species and variety names are given in lower case letters. Cultivars, where used, should have initial capital letters for each word and be enclosed by single inverted commas, e.g. I. a. ‘Madam Briot’.

(b)  Cornus alba: a quick-growing deciduous shrub with bright red young stems over the whole winter period; in subsequent years the stem colour will fade. Ilex aquifolium: evergreen shrubby tree with bright red berries on female plants over the autumn and winter periods. A wide range of cultivars are commonly available.  Sarcococca confusa: an evergreen suckering shrub with petal-free highly scented flowers throughout the winter period, excellent for situations with reduced light.

(c)  A clear statement is provided fully meeting the criteria for praecox, meaning  early, especially related to flowering. As used in the plant name Chimonanthus praecox, Winter sweet.

Soils & media:


(a) State the meaning of the following initials in water availability:

(i)     PWP                                                                                                                  (1)
FC                                                                                                                       (1)
 AWC                                                                                                                   (1)

(b) Describe how an understanding of these terms aids the growth of crops    (7)

Structure of response:

(a)  The full meaning of each term is provided:

(i)           PWP = Permanent Wilting Point
(ii)          FC = Field Capacity
AWC = Available Water Capacity.

(b) Note that seven marks have been listed to this section, therefore seven or fourteen points / features are being requested. As three terms are involved in section (a) then a balanced response across these terms is required but remember that (b) is asking how an understanding aids the growth of crops not a pure definition of each term. Also aim to include name situations, where you can, as this reinforces the fact that you understand the topic. 


Once you have given each term in full for section (a) then you may use their initials - to save a little time you may wish to start with FC as this provides the maximum volume of water held by a particular soil texture, after free drainage. Therefore regular irrigation is required for sandy soils as the retained volume is less than other soil textures, e.g. silt and sand. When growing crops where free water availability is essential, i.e. Lettuce, Lactuca sativa, or Celery, Apium graveolens var. dulce, keeping the soil at FC or near it provides maximum bulking up of the plant and avoids disorders such as bolting- a response to being short of water. Whereas, a soil at PWP will mean death of the crop as even with water being provided then the plants will not recover. This also can lead to fungal infections such as Grey Mould, Botrytis cinerea.

AWC provides the volume of water, irrigation or rain, required to return a soil to FC, however, with clay or loam soils this can be a generous amount and not required to be fully met when you are irrigating- as it may rain in the meantime and save you time and money. Therefore knowledge of these terms provides the best balance of water supply and availability for the maximum return in crop. Monitoring of AWC is usually undertaken for UK field crops between1st April and 31st October each year, as for dates other of this period the soils are taken to be at FC.       


(a) Name FOUR situations where timber products could be used in a garden situation         (4)

(b) Describe the process that should be used in the selection, use and  maintenance of timber products    (6)


Structure of response:

(a)  Four clear garden situations are named, e.g. Decking, fencing, raised beds and boardwalks. Others could include; a bird table, tree stakes, pergola, arbour or archway.

(b)  Any timber products that are sourced through wholesale or retail suppliers should have the FSC, Forestry Stewardship Council, logo on it. This shows that the product comes from a sustainable forest where replanting is taking place. Cost, both financial and environmental, together with durability of the species selection should be considered before use. Softwoods versus Hardwoods needs to be thought through, including the maintenance requirements. Smooth or rough finish should be considered with a view to assistance being given to climbing plant material. Also health and safety should be included as some timbers become very slippery once wet and may need to be covered in chicken-wire to reduce this. The production of splinters will be a major factor related to the material selection and final finish produced.  

Protective paints and stains may be required to provide longevity of use. Remember that some can cause phytotoxic reactions and should not be used where direct plant contact is seen.  Care should also be taken where pets are exposed to the treated materials. Check the manufacturer’s instructions for the details in this area.

Vegetative propagation


(a) Describe the propagation of ONE NAMED plant by root cuttings       (6)

(b) State the aftercare of the cuttings named in (a)                                    (4)


Structure of response:

(a)  As the word ‘Describe’ is used, a level of detail is required - do not just list the items- remembering to provide a fully named suitable plant example. It is best to select something that is commonly propagated via the listed method, in this case Acanthus spicata could be used, rather than something on the edge of what could technically be undertaken by this method.

Provide your response in a logical order starting with the selection of the stock material: ideally fully developed one year old roots. Washing the selected roots can also be undertaken to ensure that the material is free from visible damage and pest and diseases. Also comment on the treatment of the mother plant. Seasonal division is a good opportunity to select out suitable cutting material.

As a general guide ‘pencil thickness’ is generally used for the correct size of development. The material should be cut into sections measuring 3cm (1 ¼ inches) with a flat cut at the top and a slopping cut at a 45º angle. This is to ensure that the correct polarity is achieved. Once the cutting is inserted vertically into moist media and then covered with grit to a depth of 0.5 cm (1/4 inch), label with the plant name and date.  

(b) Monitor your cuttings for moisture level and water as required. However, moist media should be aimed for and waterlogging should be avoided. Weed control via hand weeding, as required. Named pests and diseases should also be looked for and named treatments used, as required.

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