Five Writtle College students will be part of a team of young people manning this year’s Hillier Show Garden in the Great Pavilion at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show. The ‘Hillier Academy Day’, which will take place on Friday 27 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.
From 8am to 8pm, the younger generation will be managing the Show Garden, fielding gardening queries from show visitors, maintaining the plant material and sharing information and advice with gardeners.
This year, Hillier have opted for a design by Sarah Eberle, the acclaimed garden designer and former Design Director of Hillier Landscapes. Considered part of the family, Sarah has won Gold in every garden category at Chelsea (Artisan, Fresh and Show Gardens), but has never before exhibited in the Great Pavilion. In a stunning departure from the traditional Hillier woodland exhibits of the past, Sarah has designed a Show Garden for plant-lovers. She has taken the very best trees and shrubs that Hillier has to offer – with the same exacting focus on plant quality for which Hillier is renowned – and presented them in a fresh, exciting, contemporary way.
The theme of ‘Hillier in Spring time’ is a celebration of spring-flowering trees and plants. The planting is designed to showcase different plant communities, plants that both grow successfully together and combine beautifully, to both educate and inspire visitors.
The five Writtle College horticulture students taking part are Ben Francis, Juliette Steyl, Michelle Fisher, Ben Pizzoferro and Kamen Walmsley.
Ben Francis, Third year BSc (Hons) Horticulture
“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 Hillier on their stand in the last couple of years 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.”
Juliette Steyl, Second year BSc (Hons) Horticulture
“Having grown up on a farm in Zimbabwe for most of my life, I have had a horticultural influence from a young age. My mum also had a big impact on this as she is a part-time florist and a keen gardener so I have always had the appreciation of cut flowers and the outdoors. This led me to Writtle College where I am currently in my second year of studying a Horticulture degree. With more of my interests being in commercial horticulture, once I have finished my degree, I am hoping to go home to Zimbabwe to work on the farm”.
Michelle Fisher, Second year BSc (Hons) Horticulture
“I am currently a second year Horticulture degree student at Writtle College. I have had a passion for horticulture from a young age - my first experience within the horticultural industry was at a wholesale nursery when I was in Year 10. Since then I have completed a Level 3 Extended Diploma in Horticulture, volunteered on a care farm and worked in a commercial nursery. After being part of the Hillier Academy team last year, I am fortunate enough to be attending again and am thoroughly looking forward to this year. Horticulture is a very diverse and fulfilling career which I would happily recommend to anyone, I have fully enjoyed the experiences I have had so far within the industry and hope for many more exciting opportunities to arise in the near future”.
Ben Pizzoferro, First year BSc (Hons) Horticulture
“Plants have been a life-long interest of mine, nurtured by my parents. They provide a beautiful environment which breaks up the monotonous concrete habitat humans now live and work in. Before I knew what horticulture was, I was fascinated by the way plants grow and survive in the most unlikely of habitats, but also what makes them able to do this. A career in horticulture would allow me to learn and discover new things about plants especially in a world where changing climates will influence many plants futures heavily. A combination of knowing what makes plants tick and the aesthetics of a floral display is what drives my interest”.
Kamen Walmsley, First year BSc (Hons) Landscape and Garden Design
“Horticulture has always interested me. I thoroughly enjoy being outdoors, which allows me to work closely with plants and soil. The concept of design as a career especially appealed as an option to me as I studied my GCSE’s. Product design allowed for the exploration of linking horticulture and design. Therefore my degree; Landscape and Garden Design, creates the perfect opportunity for me to further broaden this study. Learning new plants and design concepts in my degree gives me the experience I need to strive towards achieving my dream job in garden design”.
Chris Francis, Wholesale and Retail Director, Hillier, said: “Hillier are uniquely placed to offer customers and the next generation of gardeners and horticulturalists a wealth of knowledge and experience, as well as access to the world famous RHS Chelsea Flower Show. Following the success of last year’s collaboration with Writtle College, we are working together to give students the opportunity to man our Chelsea exhibit in the Grand Pavilion for the day. The team will work side by side and tell Chelsea Flower Show visitors about the initiative, which we are calling the ‘Hillier Academy’. Keep an eye on social media hashtags #HillierAcademy and #HillierChelsea as well as the official #RHSChelsea hashtag to keep updated about live news from Chelsea on Friday 27 May.”
Photograph shows the five Writtle College students involved in the Hillier Academy Day - left to right: Juliette Steyl, Michelle Fisher, Ben Francis, Ben Pizzoferro and Kamen Walmsley.