Snapshot: Cath Fletcher

Cath Fletcher is a Winterbourne Centre for Horticulture student and part time self-employed gardener. Less than a year ago she was in a full-time office-based role. Now, after a dramatic change in career, she’s a silver-merit medal winning designer, who’s ‘Our Space in Space’ garden had everybody talking at this year’s Gardeners’ World Live.

“I am studying for an RHS Level 2 Diploma in the Principles and Practices of Horticulture, undertaking the practical module on Saturdays at Winterbourne and having worked on the theory modules via distance learning. I really enjoy these courses and as well as learning a lot and working alongside like-minded people, it will really help boost my prospects when applying for horticultural roles down the line.”

Cath preparing plants for 'Our Space in Space', Cath Fletcher, Winterbourne House and Garden, Digging for Dirt

Cath preparing plants for ‘Our Space in Space’

“The ‘Beautiful Borders’ at Gardeners’ World Live are small (roughly 3mx3m) show borders aimed at horticultural students, early career designers and other budding gardeners as an opportunity to get experience in designing and presenting at a show. I first saw a small piece in the magazine encouraging entries and as I had recently enjoyed drawing up some border designs as part of one of my assignments I thought it would be fun to come up with an idea.”

'Our Space in Space' - the initial idea, Cath Fletcher, Winterbourne House and Garden, Digging for Dirt

‘Our Space in Space’ – the initial idea

“The given theme was about making the most of each and every space. I looked at this from a perspective point of view, and also wondered if there was something that could be done using ‘space’ as is in the wider Universe. I did not initially think I would submit, but when the opportunity was also mentioned by my tutor Helen during a session at Winterbourne, I thought it would be worth a try with some helping hands and moral support from others in the group.”

'Our Space in Space' - the final plan, Cath Fletcher, Winterbourne House and Garden, Digging for Dirt

‘Our Space in Space’ – the final plan

“I called my design ‘Our Space in Space’. It’s a representation of the classic image of Earth taken by Voyager 1 on 14th February 1990 from more than 4 billion miles away. Known as the Pale Blue Dot, the photograph was used in Carl Sagan’s book of the same name. To me this is the ultimate illustration that our own cherished small spaces are connected to the wider universe, and the perspective that brings; with everything on Earth, and all natural and human history, encompassed in that one tiny dot.”

Carefully selected plants being grown in preparation, Cath Fletcher, Winterbourne House and Garden, Digging for Dirt

Carefully selected plants being grown in preparation

“I had help in visualising the design and creating a wonderful perspective image for submission by fellow student Natasha Forshaw and was given some great advice from the tutors and staff at Winterbourne, who also kindly provided a few of the Sempervivum which were used in the final border. Other members of the Saturday group also assisted and Dave Billings in particular was a wonderful assistant throughout the whole process.”

A dummy run before the show, Cath Fletcher, Winterbourne House and Garden, Digging for Dirt

A dummy run before the show

“I was lucky enough to receive some sponsorship from the Welsh House Farm Big Local Partnership and the support of their community gardening group the Welsh House Farm Green Grafters – and the majority of the plants are being donated for planting in their community garden following the show. I could not have done any of it without the help and support of Jean Fletcher who gave up endless hours in order to help me get everything in place ready for the show.”

Work begins creating 'Our Space in Space' at Gardeners' World Live, Cath Fletcher, Winterbourne House and Garden, Digging for Dirt

Work begins creating ‘Our Space in Space’ at Gardeners’ World Live

“The key element of the planting was getting the right colours for the flares of light in the original photograph, and so I focussed on foliage colour in the planting choices using, for example, different varieties of Solenostemon and Heuchera. It was also important to get a clear contrast with the background material which was representing the blackness of space, so large black pebbles were used which really helped the planting to stand out.”

Applying the finishing touches, Cath Fletcher, Winterbourne House and Garden, Digging for Dirt

Applying the finishing touches

“Within each line of planting I wanted a variety of colours and shapes to give sustained interest, and to give something new to look at from different angles and when viewed in different conditions. The Miscanthus and Imperata gave some height and movement to the planting, while the mix of Sempervivum gave more detail upon closer inspection. To represent the Pale Blue Dot a metal sculpture in the style of an Allium was used to be distinct from the rest of the border.”

Cath and the finished garden, Cath Fletcher, Winterbourne House and Garden, Digging for Dirt

Cath and the finished garden

“A lot of the plant care information learnt on my course was invaluable whilst looking after the plants in the run up to the show, including correct feeding and methods to avoid pests and diseases.  The setting out and measuring techniques learnt were also really useful for the build. And actually, one of the first things we did upon arrival was to compact the soil in the border using the treading technique we used prior to sowing grass seed at Winterbourne.”

Cath, Natasha and Dave with their silver-merit award, Cath Fletcher, Winterbourne House and Garden, Digging for Dirt

Cath, Natasha and Dave with their silver-merit award

“I would love to get involved in more garden design as I have really enjoyed the process and experience so far and will be looking out for further opportunities in this area. I will continue building my local garden services work to see where this leads and am planning to continue to study with the Winterbourne Centre for Horticulture and hope to continue on to the Level 3 practical qualifications next year.”


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