A year to remember
When I heard about the BBM Youth Support Awards from a colleague at Taronga Zoo, I was excited to submit my application. I immediately began to plan my trip. It was a daunting task to organise my placements and it involved a lot of emails. Thanks to the support of BBM, my mentors Graham Ross and Andrew Fisher Tomlin, and many more amazing people my itinerary was strong when I left for my trip on April 26th. I still had many things to organise for my travel, but I was keen to get started in Singapore.
Supertrees and more Zoos
In Singapore I struggled a little with the intense humidity, but I loved seeing the diversity of tropical plants. I visited Gardens by the Bay, the National Botanic Garden, Singapore Zoo, and I also travelled north to climb the MacRichie Treetop walk. In Singapore I also stayed in a youth hostel for the first time. Throughout my trip I stayed in many hostels, especially in the UK.
On the 29th of April I travelled to Belfast, the Belfast botanic gardens had recently restored a tropical ravine at a cost of £3.8 million, the ravine contains many Australian native plants. It’s the time when bulb displays are in full swing with strong colours to remind everyone of the incoming warm weather. In Ireland I met some extended family, together we worked on revegetating their land with trees obtained from a government green grant, they also helped me to visit other historic gardens in Ireland like Rowallane and Castle Ward (aka Winterfell).
At Dublin Zoo I attended the annual BIAZA/EAZA Zoo Horticulture conference, there were some great garden excursions/tours included with the event. I enjoyed meeting people who lead horticultural teams in zoos across Europe. The event also celebrated the long career of head gardener Stephen Butler. I learned a lot from the experience and the location. Dublin zoo encircles a lake within the huge Phoenix park, the park is home to many wild deer who work hard keeping the trees crown lifted.
The Chelsea Flower Show
I joined a team in the Chelsea Flower Show’s space to grow category. I worked with wonderful design, landscaping, and planting groups. Designed by Naomi Ferrett-Cohen the CHERUB HIV garden: A Life Without Walls. Represent the journey a young person faces living with HIV. It was fascinating to learn about effective modern HIV treatments from our supporters at Oxford university. The environment at Chelsea is fast paced and it was amazing watching all the spaces change over time. Huge plane trees were dropping all their seeds over the hospital grounds, as a result the so-called Chelsea Cough was going around. We had great weather the entire time, I will always cherish the experience.
On the 28th of June I had the opportunity to volunteer for a week at the Chelsea Physics Garden. During this quick placement I worked alongside Jessica Smith another horticultural awardee, we spent our time planting. The team there are inspired, enthusiastic, and happy to share their routine and knowledge of plants.
I received a warm welcome at the Cotswold Country Wildlife Park. I stayed for two weeks in the family home of the park’s leading plant propagator Linda Bate, I’m very grateful to the Bate Family and the team in the Cotswolds. At work, we transferred tropical plants from under glass, to the spring-summer garden displays. We cleared and planted large annual bedding displays. The gardens of the park are of a high standard and there are many unique plants. The head gardener Tim Miles was kind to give me a weekend tour of the nearby Batsford Arboretum.
The national trust property Hidcote once belonged to avid gardener and plant collector Lawrence Johnston, it is also in the Cotswold region. There is on-site student housing which allowed us to see the garden in many lights of day and night, the summer solstice passed whist we were at Hidcote, so we got a glorious dose of summer. The garden has an English feel, and although the renowned Sissinghurst Castle Garden is more famous for its gardens rooms, at Hidcote exists a similar concept.
Down the road from Hidcote is the privately-run garden Kiftsgate, home of the amazing Kiftsgate climbing rose. I hired a car with fellow awardee Jessica, we were able to visit many picturesque and unique gardens, Including the National Arboretum Westonbirt. After my placement at National Trust garden Hidcote, I visited a Spanish island.
Tenerife’s endemic plants
The island of Tenerife in the Canaries is home to many endemic plants that are commonly grown in Australia. Most famously Dracaena draco or the dragons blood tree. Many people hold superstitious beliefs about this tree and its red dragons blood sap. As I climbed Mount Teide I saw many flowering echiums, they flower well above the tree line where oxygen is thin. There are many horticultural fascinations on the Canaries, although I found some difficult to reach using only the public busses. I was amazed at the beauty of the UNESCO listed colonial town La Laguna.
Left, A beautiful green courtyard in a colonial building of La Laguna. Right, Echiums flowering above the tree line on Mount Teide.
For a large part of my trip I was tackling the language barrier in France. In Paris I worked with O Ubi Campi, a design company who are pioneering therapy gardens by targeting specific illnesses. The focus is mostly geriatrics, I visited nursing home gardens to meet residents, social workers, and occupational therapists who are involved every day with the green space. I loved this opportunity and I met some truly inspiring, caring people.
I attended two meetings and made a site visit with support from O Ubi Campi’s CEO Etienne Bourdon. The Aim was to submit a development proposal for a new town centre in Ville d’Avray. It was a great opportunity to think in new ways and to witness architects, planners, landscape designers, and Real-Estate agents come together to consolidate ideas and create a proposal in a unified voice.
Gardens of Thought
The theme for the 27th Chaumont sur Loire international garden festival is Gardens of Thought. I loved exploring the diverse garden installations. Unlike a lot of flower shows the installations will stand on display for the entire growing season from April to November. In general, I feel this shifts the design focus from flowers, towards concept, foliage, and landscape materials.
I attended a garden festival amongst the Hortillonnages of Amiens. The Hortillonnages are floating gardens connected by a network of canals and access is mostly by boat, historically the islands were cultivated just for market produce, but today it is mostly for ornamental and tourist purposes, some islands still exist as allotments for locals. There are both permanent and temporary garden and art installations managed by Arts et Jardins Hauts-de-France. It’s a beautiful area that encourages sustainable development, It’s a huge inspiration for my work in horticulture.
I then travelled to London to complete two weeks work placement at Kew Gardens. At Kew I worked with the Arboretum team, it was lovely to explore Kew’s collections and the newly opened temperate glasshouse and Japanese pagoda. The biggest downside at Kew is working right underneath a major flightpath from London Heathrow. The Team assures me that you just never get used to the noise. Whist I was on work experience there was some celebrations for the students graduating from the prestigious 3-year Kew diploma of horticulture. It was a wonderful opportunity to meet passionate horticulturists and learn of their work plans.
The Eden Project
At the Eden Project in Cornwall I attended a plant network event titled Health and wellbeing in horticulture and gardens. There were over 40 professionals in attendance, the event engaged people to think about how gardens can engage and support communities to promote good health, with talks from the organisation Thrive, from medical professionals, and from community workers. I walked away from a short 2-day event buzzing with inspiration. The unique Snoozbox YHA accommodation at the Eden Project is built from shipping containers and has a focus on sustainability.
Once back in France I joined the intern program at Claude Monet’s Giverny garden. Funded by the Versailles Foundation the program is available in different ways to both artists and gardeners. I am very thankful to Graham Ross for helping me find my placement, and to Jan Huntley for welcoming me. There are two small gardens that are represented in many of Monet’s paintings, The Clos Normand and the Water Garden. I lived on site and was able to explore both gardens in all different lights. The house and garden in Giverny are on display from March to November. When I visited in September the Dahlias, Asters, Cosmos, Helianthus, Tithionias, Rudbeckias and Tropaeolums were in full flower. It was a memorable experience to work with the gardens team and the other interns at Giverny, I honestly enjoyed every second.
A peace garden to remember the armistice of WW1
I was already in the north of France when I met with designers Andrew Fisher Tomlin & Dan Bowyer. Andrew leads the London college of garden design, he has been an incredible contact helping me piece together my entire trip. We’d met once already at the Chelsea flower show. However, this time our objective was to assemble a peace garden in Thiepval commemorating 100 years since the armistice of WW1. The design is a curved accoya bench approximately 35 meters in length. The bench was made by Oxford Planters to trace a specific path between existing trees and each leg was cut to match the rise and fall of the ground. Primrose seeds will be spread throughout the area. There will be a series of peace gardens reflecting on the participation of different nations in the great war. The experience was humbling.
After I’d worked at Giverny caring for the Latour-Marliac water lilies, and I’d seen memorials from the battles in the Somme region. I decided I would see Monet’s most famous water lily paintings in the Musee de l’Orangerie in Paris, the paintings were gifted from Monet to the people of France celebrating the peace after the end of WW1. They are displayed in the manner intended by Monet.
Only one piece of advice
If I can give any advice to future awardees, I would say consider getting a temporary sim card. I relied on Wi-Fi to communicate and plan for my trip. By being hard to contact I missed several opportunities (like meeting the prime minister of France or taking a day trip to Belgium).
I’d like to give a huge thanks to everyone who supported me on this once in a lifetime journey of, it was amazing to have the support of BBM, Graham Ross, Andrew Fisher Tomlin, and all the other people who’ve helped me. Now I’m back to my apprenticeship in Sydney, I plan to continue practising sustainable horticulture and to advocate for healthy and engaging gardens.
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