Monday, July 22, 2024
A proud moment at Chelsea (Image: Ash Walker)

The opportunity of a life time

By Ash Walker

The smile couldn’t be wiped off my face when I received a call from Henrietta Ardlie the CEO of Global Footprints, (formerly the BBM Youth Support scholarship) telling me that I had been awarded the Youth scholarship. I was so excited for what the future could bring, I went home that afternoon and started planning the trip.

Gunnera manicata putting on a show at Wisley (Image: Ash Walker)
Gunnera manicata putting on a show at Wisley (Image: Ash Walker)

It all started back in late 2019, when I heard about the Global Footprints scholarship from a work colleague, Justin Longhurst. I decided to apply when applications opened in April of 2020 and after the long hours of putting my application together, I sent it through. The good news came through in August 2020. Naturally with COVID19 restrictions, the trip began earlier this year, 2022.

Global Footprints and Graham Ross, an ambassador of the scholarship, played a role in putting me in contact with all my placements, including the Chelsea Flower Show, for which I’II be forever grateful, and I certainly couldn’t have done it without Graham and the Global Footprints team.

My plan was to be overseas for six months, starting in May and finishing in November. I was offered five different placements, spending approximately four weeks working at each location as a horticulturist, with tasks ranging from garden maintenance to hard landscaping jobs. The placements included The RHS Chelsea Flower Show, The Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew, the National Trust, Hidcote Manor Garden, Claude Monet’s Garden, Giverny in France, and The Eden Project in Cornwall.

During my free time, I visited other local gardens in the vicinity of my placements. One particular garden that really impressed me was RHS Wisley in Surrey. The quality and attention to detail this garden offered was phenomenal. If you ever travel to the UK, you certainly must make it a ‘must visit’.

‘Out of the Shadows’ Sanctuary gGrden (Image: Ash Walker)
‘Out of the Shadows’ Sanctuary gGrden (Image: Ash Walker)

Chelsea Garden Show

I worked at The Chelsea Flower Show with Kate Gould, the designer of “Out of the Shadows” Sanctuary Garden, as a horticulturist, planting and demonstrating plant maintenance in the garden display. The show was insane. The amount of people that attended was crazy, with ten people deep at times trying to catch a look at the gardens. I had a wonderful time talking to the public and answering horticultural questions and chatting about the garden. The show was also on another level, and compared to every other garden show in the world, Chelsea is the top one to visit. The amount of detail demonstrated by the horticulturists and landscapers is on another planet We had to be sure there weren’t any pots showing within the design, you must clean every leaf, branch, paver and brick, not to mention you couldn’t wear shoes in the garden to avoid creating a mess but that is the standard we must work at to present an outstanding garden.

Working on the project with Kate and the team at Chelsea was such an amazing experience. The long days, hard physical hours, not to mention the blood, sweat and tears we put into this garden, to come away with a Gold Medal, Best Construction and Best in Category certainty made all the hard work worth it, and it also demonstrated the amount of passion we all have for the garden and the industry. (I thank everyone and I’II be back next year). Being at Chelsea, meeting awesome people and having the pleasure to work at such a renowned garden show, was one of the highlights of this trip.

There are lessons to be learnt from constructing a show garden (Image: Ash Walker)
There are lessons to be learnt from constructing a show garden (Image: Ash Walker)

The long-term effect that this experience will have on my career will boost it to a respectable status, and will create other opportunities to travel, and the opportunity to learn more skills and techniques across all aspects of horticulture. The experience and knowledge gained will also help me to give back to Australia’s horticulture industry by making it more sustainable with new innovative ideas but most importantly, through my experiences, it will give me the ability to tell my stories and to encourage and guide the next young generation of horticulturists and landscapers to thrive in the industry.

My time came to an end at the Chelsea flower show and I moved on to the Botanic Gardens at Kew. The team were so inviting and all have a wealth of knowledge that I’m tapping into, and the garden is sensational with so much history. I can’t wait see what else I will learn and gain from volunteering at Kew gardens, so stay tuned for when I share the next part of this fantastic journey.

Main photo: A proud moment at Chelsea (Image: Ash Walker)

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