Jack Hutchinson travelled to the UK during his 2017 BBM Horticulture Scholarship.
This is his story.
I first found out about the BBM Global Industry Scholarship through meeting Horticultural Guru, Graham Ross. Being given the opportunity to apply for the scholarship was amazing and I never would’ve expected to be successful. The scholarship allowed me to not only refine my skills but also branch out and get a taste of what it is like to work in other areas of the industry. Experiencing Horticulture at world renowned events and at iconic locations provided me with exposure to new cultures and climates as well as new key skills which made me more knowledgeable and adaptable. My experiences at the Chelsea Flower Show, the new Chatsworth Flower Show, Royal Botanic Gardens Kew, Hampton Court Palace Flower Show and at Tatton Park Flower Show exposed me to world renowned landscape architects and designers as well as help me experience horticulture in a completely different climate. Whilst the principles behind a lot of decisions often remain consistent, watching how different experts apply their knowledge can be very different and I learnt and started to develop my own style of understanding to help my career journey.
Preparation for the trip
Once I had found out that my application had been successful, it was then time to plan. This included organising flights, accommodation, workplaces, transport. I was fortunate enough to have Graham Ross supporting my application, he was fundamental to helping me make contact with key people. Graham placed me in contact with Andrew Fisher Tomlin who owns the London College of Garden Design as well as Fisher Tomlin & Bowyer. Andrew helped me organise my whole trip to the UK. I also contacted the past BBM scholars who offered their help as well.
Whilst I was in the UK…
I arrived in the UK on the 7th May after a long 24hr flight. This is the first time I have been travelling on my own this far away from my parents, so I had mixed feelings of excitement and nerves.
Chelsea Flower Show
During my trip preparation, I was fortunate enough to be put in contact with Graham Bodle from Walker’s Nurseries, Graham had designed and was going to construct an Artisan Garden at the Chelsea 2017 show. I made contact with Graham just in time and he allowed me to join his team. During the build up phase for Chelsea I was staying in Wimbledon, so I travelled to Chelsea daily by tube which was a new experience. There were only 6 of us in the team building the garden which was good because it meant everyone got involved. Graham had previously won Gold at the 2015 Chelsea show where he had built a garden for the Doncaster Deaf trust. Because this was the first flower show that I had ever been to, I didn’t know what to expect, so when I arrived on the first day, I was expecting it to be a huge open area with lots of gardens being built. It was quite the opposite! the show is held in the Royal Hospital of Chelsea Grounds which is located on the River Thames.
The main marquee for the show was located in the centre of the grounds, the marquee housed everything from Master Bonsai Growers, the best Rose Experts in the UK all the way to the exhibition cut flower stands, plus many more. The marquee was the centre point with all the larger show gardens and trade stands located all the way around. The Artisan Gardens were located in a more secluded part of the show where there were avenues of Holly trees (Ilex Sp.) surrounding the gardens. Our garden benefited from this due to it being more of a natural garden it blended into its backdrop. The garden wasn’t large in size, approximately 6m x 8m, but there were some big components of the build which stood out. The garden was based on a derelict ship wharf and the idea was to turn an unused area into a useable garden space. A lot of the materials selected and used by Graham had been sourced during the prior 18 months, many of which were recycled materials to add to the effect of the garden. For example representing a transformation from a derelict abandoned wharf to a very natural and usable garden, a place that you could visualise, as if it was part of back garden and also a place where you felt like you could relax. It took 9 ½ days to construct the garden and we finished on the morning of assessment day. I had to scramble around at the end of the build to find some fresh turf, because the rolls we had were more yellow in colour, rather than green. To finish the garden off, we rolled out the fresh turf, gave the pond a clean and the deck a sweep, at that point we couldn’t do any more. After we had finished the garden, we then had a nervous wait for the result of the assessment which they painfully don’t announce until 2 DAYS LATER!! 🙁
During show week I helped Graham to look after the garden, this was an excellent experience because you get to know first hand what the public think of the garden. It’s such an amazing feeling when someone says to you that “the garden looks like it has been here for years”!! because considering it was constructed in such a short amount of time and it looks settled demonstrates the standard of works delivered by the team. Graham and the team were a nice bunch of guys which helped me out as it this was a totally new experience to me, they also gave me a new nickname ‘Kangaroo Jack’.
As show week comes to a close, all the gardens do ‘THE GREAT SELL OFF’ which basically means at 4:00pm on the last day of the show the public can buy plants off the gardens who want to sell their plants off. This is fun to watch and the public go from a state of being calm and contained to “gotta get that plant and nothing is going to stop me”! So after the public have got trolleys and trolleys of plants or they are juggling a Foxglove in one hand and a Cactus in the other, it’s time for them to leave and then back to the construction guys to come back and start deconstructing the garden. It’s amazing that something that takes 9 ½ days to construct can be taken down in 1 ½ days. Seeing it being built up from the ground up and then watching it being torn from the top down is quite sad. However, it was all worth it because the garden won the gold medal and ‘Best Artisan’ awards – YAY!
During the Chelsea Flower Show I was invited to a Young Horts Breakfast, which had a number of influential people from the industry speaking, including a director of the RHS (Royal Horticultural Society). This was a good networking opportunity to make contacts with people in the industry.
RHS Wisley – LCDG Garden design course ‘Gardens for Children’
My mentor whilst I was in the UK was Andrew Fisher Tomlin. Andrew owns a college in London which runs multiple garden design courses and during my visit, I was very fortunate to be given a spot on one of the short courses. This was a wonderful opportunity for me and an experience to get real insight into garden design. The course I attended focused on designing gardens for children that are affected by Autism. It was interesting to see what thought goes into designing a garden for specific needs, for example gardens for children. The particular designer that took the course was keen on building small models of his designs out of plasticine and paddle pop sticks. The design that was showcased during the course was going to be constructed at the Hampton Court Flower Show. The garden was designed to cater for the whole autistic spectrum. I also had a chance to have a walk around the Wisley site which was full of amazing sites but the coolest thing was the avenue planting of 30-40 year old Bonsai trees in pots.
RHS Chatsworth Flower Show
At Chatsworth, Andrew Fisher Tomlin put me in touch with and organised for me to work with one of the leading garden designers in the UK, Jo Thompson. RHS Chatsworth was the new flower show this year being hosted at the beautiful landscape of Chatsworth House. Jo’s expertise is in designing residential and private gardens. The garden designed and built at Chatsworth reflected a garden that Jo would design in the home garden. The garden was placed into the category of ‘freeform’ which meant in blended into the original and surrounding landscape. Jo used the river which flows through the Chatsworth landscape and mimicked the curves and bends by using rebar. The rebar was a continuous feature throughout the garden. The serpentine forms and planting throughout the garden consists of Blue Campanulas, Primulas, Pink Astrantias and yellow to white iris which fits in perfectly along the riverside. The garden had Hornbeams and Field Maples to offer shade throughout the garden with turf serpentining through the garden and planting on either side. There was a lot of meadow turf used throughout the garden which created the effect that the garden had self sown over a longer period of time.
The garden at Chatsworth House was the biggest garden that I worked on during my time over in the UK. It was a very different experience in comparison to the other gardens because it focused on a residential design. This was a huge benefit to myself because my work at Honeysuckle Gardens, Mosman is all related to residential and the general public who I interact work with often ask me for advice or to comment about residential design ideas. This experience his really helped me understand and learn about giving advice and responses to my customers in areas such as colour matching, textures, different types of planting, for example clumping colours, different height levels, layering and using mature specimen trees.
Royal Botanic Gardens of Kew
During my preparation, before leaving for the UK I organised through Martin Staniforth to get a placement at the Royal Botanic Gardens of Kew. Again, both Graham Ross and Andrew Fisher Tomlin were instrumental in helping me get this opportunity. Whilst I was at RBG Kew, I experienced what it was like to maintain a botanical garden and what daily duties need to be completed. For the two weeks that I was placed at Kew I was apart of the Queens team. I helped out with the maintenance at Kew Palace, the Queen’s Garden, the Duke’s Garden and Kew Green. During this time I completed tasks such as controlling irrigation and hand watering, maintenance pruning, topiary pruning, weed control, replanting of garden beds and much more.
I started off in the Queen’s Garden and Kew Palace looking after the herbal/medicinal garden which required hand watering as well as ongoing checking to be completed, even more importantly during this period because the UK was experiencing an unusual heat wave where temperature reached 38 Degrees. General maintenance included, for example deadheading, weeding around the garden and making everything look good for the public. Next, I moved to the front of Kew Palace to complete edging turfed areas around clipped buxus hedging. This part of my placement lasted for a couple of days because it was a big area and we were a small team. This experience allowed me to expand my plant knowledge and the operations/ importance of a maintenance program. After completing a couple of days on the Queen’s Garden, I moved to a different part at RBG Kew.
My nextmove was to Kew Green. Whilst at Kew Green, I worked on one of the houses within RBG Kew. My tasks involved completing a general maintenance on the garden which had a small turfed area, some topiary specimens, along with perennial garden beds. The team were tasked with weeding the garden beds, maintenance pruning of anything that required and mulching the garden beds. RBG Kew produced all of its own mulch from both green and plant waste from all over the site.
For my remaining time at Kew I worked on the Duke’s Garden. The Dukes Garden was a big area that consisted of a turfed oval with 7 to 8 young specimen trees which required regular watering during the heat. Most of the trees that are planted in turfed areas around RBG Kew have tree circles, this allows the trees to grow with minimal interference from the grass. In the Dukes Garden there were two main garden beds, the Spring Bed and the Blue and White Garden Bed. The Spring Bed had recently had its feature tree removed due to a pest/disease problem, one of my tasks was to help with the reconstruction of the garden beds.
Additionally, I also performed some pruning whilst in the Dukes Garden for various reasons, this included remedial and maintenance pruning, deadheading and removal of any suckers, epicormic growth, growth from the rootstock of grafted plants. I also was tasked with irrigating the garden by hand watering as well as organising and monitoring irrigation systems.
During my time at RBG Kew, I was lucky enough to also get a ‘behind the scenes’ tour of the glass houses where Kew kept all of its collections of rare and unusual plants from all around the world, from Orchids, to Cacti & Succulent, to Water Lilies & much more.
In the glasshouses there are many temperate zones to cover the many different climates that are needed to be recreated in order to store the plant specimens. These were all monitored and controlled electronically to ensure the best results.
After I had finished at Kew Gardens, my mentor Andrew Fisher Tomlin was creating a garden at the Hampton Court Palace Flower Show, ‘The All About the Community Garden’ for the Blind Veterans UK charity. This turned out to be the Highlight of my trip!
Andrew had been working on this garden with the charity for 4 years. There was a lot to consider when designing this garden as there isn’t just one type of visual impairment. This garden needed to be suitable for total loss of sight, tunnel vision sight, blurred vision, Segmented Field loss, Patchy vision and many more. Due to this, Andrew had to design his garden to make sure it benefited and covered the range of sight loss. He achieved this by ‘block planting’, this results in the clumping of groups of colours together so they were much easier to see. This not only help the veterans to make out the colour but also help them navigate around the garden. Andrew also used one plant in particular for the main fragrance throughout the garden which was Roses. There were over 200 roses planted in the garden of which some of the varieties were:
- Lady Emma Hamilton
- Lady of Shallot
- Poets Wife
- Princess Anne
- Darcy Bussell
- And many more.
He only used roses throughout the garden as the main fragrance to act as a guide and help the veterans navigate the garden.
The name of the garden was ‘It’s all about the community’ and the name was perfect as it looked like a community garden when the garden had 70 blind veterans as well as visually impaired children all interacting with each other and enjoying the garden. The garden consisted of a workshop, an allotment garden, a courtyard with a seating area, and finally a giant willow sculpture which represented the ‘The Great Vine’ of Hampton Court Palace and appeared throughout the garden.
During the build I worked with some of the industries leading representatives which allowed me to not only widen my horticultural knowledge but also continuously learn about landscaping and landscape design in real time. Landform who are one of the leading landscape construction companies in the UK were building Andrews garden for him, out of all of the places I worked at during my time in the UK, Hampton Court was my favourite because I helped to build the garden, but in additions to that I was also in charge of maintaining the garden throughout show week. This was so much fun because I got to work with the Blind Veterans on the garden and hear their stories and how they cope with their visual impairment. I also listened to how they reacted to the garden and it was amazing to hear. The garden also won the ‘Best Construction” and “Gold” awards, so well deserved!!
RHS Tatton Park Flower Show
To conclude my trip, I finished at a place near to where I grew up before my family and I moved to Australia. Tatton Park was very close to my home in the UK, so to return there not only to see it again, but to also build a show garden there was amazing and I am so glad that I could help Lara Behr who designed and built the garden. Lara’s charity was Macmillan Cancer Support which is a cause very close to my families heart also. In comparison to the other show gardens, this was a smaller garden which was good and looking back I was given the chance to work on 4 completely different show gardens. Lara’s garden was in the category of ‘Back to Back’ gardens which meant there was 4 gardens back to back in a square shape. The concept behind all of the gardens in this category was they should all meet a design concept that can be used practically in a home garden environment.
The team working on the garden consisted of Lara, her landscaper and myself. This was very rewarding and meant that I was involved in the garden a lot more than some of the earlier gardens. It also allowed me to apply a lot of the experience from the three previous show gardens I had worked on and enabled me to recommend solutions and advice to problems as they arose during the construction of Lara’s first show garden. After a long week of working through the rain, hail and shine, the build was finished and there was nothing more that we could all do apart from wait. YES !!! Lara’ legacy garden was awarded with a Gold Medal and ‘Best Back to Back’ garden!
After 3 months of fun and hard work, my trip has come to an end and it’s time to make the 24 hour trip back home. I am thrilled that I had the opportunity to go on this trip as it has given me the chance to ‘Spread my roots’ (You get it! Roots! Spread!) into the big wide world of Horticulture and gain knowledge and experience that will help me move into my career as a horticulturalist.
I have gained valuable networking and contacts that will give me a solid base to stand on as I move forward in my career. All of this wouldn’t of been achievable without the support of Graham Ross, Andrew Fisher Tomlin and of course BBM Youth Support.Update Your Details