In June Winterbourne Centre for Horticulture graduate Charlotte Allen won Gold at BBC Gardeners’ World Live for a design evoking childhood memories of the past….
“I have been a self-employed gardener since 2010 and in 2017 I started looking into professional qualifications to help me to drive my business forward and future-proof myself. Ultimately I would love to be part of a team looking after one of the many beautiful heritage gardens we are so fortunate to have around the midlands. To do this I have been working through the RHS Level 2 certificates. Last year I completed the Practical certificate and I have just finished the Garden Planning certificate. In September I hope enrol onto the final certificate “Plant Growth and Propagation’ to complete the full Level 2 diploma.”
“I’d been looking for an opportunity to push myself out of my gardening comfort zone for a while and studying at Winterbourne for the past two years had inspired me to take the bull by the horns and enter a design into the ‘Beautiful Borders’ category at Gardeners’ World Live. I figured nothing ventured, nothing gained! Previous to this I had no garden design experience at all but it’s something I’ve been interested in exploring for a while, so with the support and encouragement of my tutor Darren I went for it!”
“When I decided to apply for the competition I approached Darren for some advice and he said ‘create a design that means something to you, that you know really well’ and so that’s what I did. My classmates were also fantastic, offering help with preparation and show days. I’m so glad that I decided to enter the competition while at college and not wait for another year or two. Having so many enthusiastic, like-minded people cheering me on was such a fantastic experience.”
“My design was based around my childhood. I grew up in the leafy suburbs of Birmingham where we had a beautiful family garden to play in. But over the fence at the end of the garden was an old orchard that had once belonged to the old Victorian bathhouse. No one ever went there and so my friends and I spent many happy hours building dens and playing away from the world around us. It was an utterly magical place where there were no rules, just total freedom. My design aimed to recapture those heady summer days when I was 10.”
“The weather was undoubtedly the most challenging aspect of the whole thing! No question! Sourcing plants and all the practical elements of the build up prior to the show had their challenges, but oh my goodness, the weather over the 10 days I was out at the NEC was horrific! We started build up on the Saturday and the weather gradually descended until the final show day the following Sunday when the sun made a brief appearance. I have to say, the mad weather did add a great sense of camaraderie to the event though and working in extreme conditions did require some ‘out of the box’ thinking!”
“Studying in such an inspiring environment as Winterbourne has had a hugely positive impact on my confidence as a gardener. The RHS course itself is fast paced and covers a huge variety of subjects, some new and some familiar. I feel like I’ve filled in the gaps in my knowledge and learnt entirely new skills. Taking part in BBC Gardeners’ World Live felt like a ‘coming together’ of all of those things, from design, planning, plant selection, timing and everything in between. I don’t think I would have had the courage to take the risk without that experience behind me.”
“I would definitely do it again! It is an experience I will never forget! I made new friends, learnt new skills, achieved a Gold Award and have memories that will keep me inspired for years to come. The sheer volume of talent and imagination that people bought to the show in their designs and finished gardens were so inspiring. I love what I do. I have great customers and the flexibility of working for myself, but the dream would be to work as part of a team again or, following the Gardeners’ World Live experience, move into design.”