Snapshot: Lolly Gautier-Ollerenshaw

Lolly is 34 years old and lives in Bournville with her husband and 3-year-old son. After a lifetime spent collecting clippings from garden magazines, Lolly finally felt inspired to begin her own journey into horticulture and jumped at the chance to enrol on our own RHS Level 2 Certificate in the Principles of Garden Planning. We asked Lolly for a ‘Snapshot’ of life as a student at Winterbourne’s Centre for Horticulture.

“Studying interior design at university, you’d think that the natural progression would be towards a career in this area. Not so fast – I veered a little off-tangent for a while but life has a funny way of putting you back on your right course. Formerly a full-time blogger I found my interest waning in this area after five years in the industry. If I’m being completely honest I was utterly miserable. Every spare minute outside of my day job, and looking after my little boy, was spent reading about gardens or physically gardening myself.”

Seed sowing in the Potting Shed, RHS Level 2 Certificate in Practical Horticulture, photograph by David Billings, Winterbourne House and Garden, Digging for Dirt, Lolly Gautier-Ollerenshaw

Seed sowing in the Potting Shed, RHS Level 2 Certificate in Practical Horticulture, photograph by David Billings

“I devoured books about gardens and then about the gardeners themselves. I experimented as much as I could with sowing seeds, taking cuttings and layering different plants. It restored me, nourished my soul and I genuinely felt truly happy again with soil running through my fingers and mud on my boots. When my family suggested that I actually explored this as a career it was as if a light-bulb had gone off in my head. In fact, I felt rather idiotic that I hadn’t considered this sooner.”

Cutting back borders in the Teaching Garden, RHS Level 2 Certificate in the Principles of Garden Planning, photograph by Ruth Davis, Winterbourne House and Garden, Digging for Dirt, Lolly Gautier-Ollerenshaw

Cutting back borders in the Teaching Garden, RHS Level 2 Certificate in the Principles of Garden Planning, photograph by Ruth Davis

“For me there was no other choice than to enrol onto an RHS course at Winterbourne. It is a place that I have always loved, partly because it is bound up with happy memories of my own but also because there are so many different areas to explore. We regularly nip into the garden as Darren (our tutor) often uses the physical landscape to demonstrate a point. I have fond memories of learning about datum points using the pleached lime avenue, despite it lashing down with rain!”

Getting a fine tilth in the Polytunnel, RHS Level 2 Certificate in Practical Horticulture, photograph by David Billings, Winterbourne House and Garden, Digging for Dirt, Lolly Gautier-Ollerenshaw

Getting a fine tilth in the Polytunnel, RHS Level 2 Certificate in Practical Horticulture, photograph by David Billings

“I don’t think I’ve ever seen Darren without a smile on his face. You can guarantee that at least once every class he’s got us all in fits of giggles. He’s able to communicate what seem initially to be convoluted topics in a clear and concise way. I have been amazed by the amount of knowledge he has stored in his head. He seems to know the name for every plant going. That said, he does like to spring a test on us every so often so we know to expect the unexpected.”

Ground preparation in the Teaching Garden, RHS Level 2 Certificate in the Principles of Garden Planning, photograph by Ruth Davis, Winterbourne House and Garden, Digging for Dirt, Lolly Gautier-Ollerenshaw

Ground preparation in the Teaching Garden, RHS Level 2 Certificate in the Principles of Garden Planning, photograph by Ruth Davis

“I’m a firm believer of stepping outside your comfort zone, how else do you hope to grow and develop unless you’re being challenged to go that one step further? That’s not to say that there haven’t been times when I’ve felt overwhelmed with juggling being a mum, a wife, renovating a house, the day job and studying. I think one thing that I’ve really been challenged by is remembering the sheer volume of Latin names for so many plants and how to spell them too!”

Clearing around fruit trees in the Teaching Garden, RHS Level 2 Certificate in Practical Horticulture, photograph by David Billings, Winterbourne House and Garden, Digging for Dirt, Lolly Gautier-Ollerenshaw

Clearing around fruit trees in the Teaching Garden, RHS Level 2 Certificate in Practical Horticulture, photograph by David Billings

“I love learning as part of a larger group. At first, I worried about remembering everyone’s name but now I count them as wonderful friends. We have a WhatsApp group which we’re always chatting to each other in and the broad range of ages means that we all benefit from different experiences and walks of life. We also have trips planned together and all get stuck into a task (literally) and pull together when we need to. It’s incredibly useful to have such a strong support network.”

Student plots in the Teaching Garden, RHS Level 2 Certificate in Practical Horticulture, photograph by Helen Wood, Winterbourne House and Garden, Digging for Dirt, Lolly Gautier-Ollerenshaw

Student plots in the Teaching Garden, RHS Level 2 Certificate in Practical Horticulture, photograph by Helen Wood

“We probably have less physical interaction with the ‘Teaching Garden’ (next to our classroom) than the Level 2 Certificate in Practical Horticulture, but that’s not to say we haven’t pulled on our boots and got our spades dirty. It’s really useful when we’re learning about something that isn’t readily conveyed on paper – learning about soil structure for example. We’re also in the process of creating a hardy annuals bed that we have designed ourselves and will create from scratch. I can’t wait to see it at its peak later this year.”

Christmas party, RHS Level 2 Certificate in the Principles of Garden Planning, photograph by Darren Rudge, Winterbourne House and Garden, Digging for Dirt, Lolly Gautier-Ollerenshaw

Christmas party, RHS Level 2 Certificate in the Principles of Garden Planning, photograph by Darren Rudge

“I would love to continue my learning at Winterbourne by applying for the Level 2 Certificate in Practical Horticulture and assuming I pass all my exams, expand further by taking on the challenge of Level 3. The ultimate dream would be to design outdoor spaces of my own. I thought I possessed a huge amount of knowledge about established garden styles and plants but in reality, I’ve just touched the tip of the iceberg. In fact, the more I learn, the less I know; this actually serves to drive me to keep on learning, to attempt to know everything there is to know or at least get half way there.”


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