For one day only – and for the first time ever - Writtle College students will be part of a team of young people taking over the largest exhibit in the RHS Chelsea Flower Show’s Great Pavilion.
The inaugural Young Hillier Day on 22 May is the brainchild of staff at the 150-year-old Hillier Nurseries and aims to showcase horticultural careers and what horticulture offers young people.
For the first time, a show-manning team of 14 Hillier staff, trainees and apprentices, along with Writtle College students will take over the Great Pavilion’s showcase exhibit.
From 8am to 8pm, the younger generation will be managing the exhibit, fielding gardening queries from show visitors, maintaining the plant material and sharing information and advice with gardeners.
They will also help to stage the 24x24m Hillier exhibit, which is a series of interlinking gardens on the theme of ‘Crossing Continents’. Hillier is chasing its record 70th consecutive RHS Chelsea Flower Show gold medal.
The five Writtle College horticulture students are Ben Francis, Michelle Fisher, William Innes-Taylor, Hamish Porteous and Melissa Jade Griffiths.
From Southampton, second year BSc (Hons) Horticulture, son of Hillier Garden Centre director Chris Francis
“Horticulture for me is the essence of all that is good in this world, and I love the joy of spending time outside in the natural world, especially wandering around the grounds at Writtle in the spring when all the trees are in blossom.
“My experience with Hiller on their stand last year has made me fall in love with Chelsea, and I hope I am here for many years to come. This year I look forward to working on the stand in partnership with the wonderful people from Hillier, including their new group of management trainees, and look forward to seeing everyone who shares my passion for horticulture.”
From Norwich, first year BSc (Hons) Horticulture
“I have had an interest in horticulture from a young age, sowing flower seeds in my nan’s garden. This sparked a passion, and I began growing and selling my own vegetable plants. My first big experience within horticulture was working on a wholesale nursery during work experience in year ten, and since then I have completed a Level 3 Extended Diploma in Horticulture, volunteered on a care farm and worked in a commercial nursery.
“My main interests are in production horticulture, and, after completing my degree, I am hoping to gain a career within horticulture trials.”
From Grantham, third year BSc (Hons) Horticulture
“I began to love horticulture after being brought up by a keen and talented gardener, my mother, who introduced me to the workings of Geoff Hamilton at Barnsdale Gardens and the works of ‘Capability’ Brown at Burghley House. My most favoured plant has to be the Acer palmatum 'Sango-kaku', simply for its unique bark and incredible leaf colour. My favourite flower would have to be the stunning Echinacea purpurea ‘Rubinstern’, which always thrives in sunny conditions. Horticulture is a unique and talented industry - everyone wants to help you succeed.”
From Lymington, first year BSc (Hons) Horticulture
“Horticulture provides an exciting opportunity to be involved in an interesting and progressive industry. The different aspects of horticulture present a variety of challenges creating stimulating working environments. I thoroughly enjoy the connection to the environment that comes from working with plants and from the positive influences that this sector has on the world around us.
“I am very enthusiastic to work in as many roles as possible within my career to provide myself with a broad range of experiences. The roles of horticulturalists are rewarding and certainly one of the most fulfilling careers anybody could have.”
Melissa Jade Griffiths
From Buckinghamshire, first year BSc (Hons) Horticulture
“After seeing how rewarding it can be to work with plants during a short period of work experience in a commercial nursery, I have developed an interest in the growing and breeding of cut flowers and large scale bulb production. This has led me to begin studying for a degree in Horticulture at Writtle College. Seeing how practices can be improved and how existing issues can be dealt with is very intriguing to me. I am interested in how horticulture can be used as a form of therapy by either improving people’s surroundings or through physically participating.”
Chris Francis, Hillier Garden Centre director and Ben’s father, said: “Many youngsters often tell me their perception of Horticulture is one of a subject that is full of stuffy, boring older people who speak in a strange language and appear to talk down to those who may have less knowledge and experience. Of course, as you get to know most of these people you see that is far from the truth, and many have an amazing passion for the subject, but it is important for the future of our industry that we change our image and younger people see how diverse and exciting the horticultural industry is.
“It is therefore very important that those of us who are in influential positions within the industry make use of our positions and give opportunities to those younger people who have chosen horticulture as a career and ensure they become the face of our industry, hopefully encouraging more youngsters to become involved.
“At Hillier we are lucky enough to be in a unique position at Chelsea and in the horticultural world with an exhibit that anyone starting out in the industry could only dream to be involved with. Therefore this year we have decided to use that position to allow the (very excited!) Young Hillier and Writtle students a unique opportunity to exclusively man our exhibit for the day and, as well as have a day they will remember for years to come, with their youthful enthusiasm hopefully inspire others to see Horticulture as an industry that is fun, exciting and full of opportunities.”