Meet: Caitlin Sawyer
For Young Horticulturist of the Year, Caitlin Sawyer, 2015 was an especially good year.
She left her family's small nursery in the Manning Valley, NSW, for the Chelsea Flower Show in England. And what happened next was even better.
Meet Caitlin Sawyer. Photo - Robin Powell
How did you come to be involved with Charlie Goes to Chelsea, the Australian garden at Chelsea this year?
I was lucky enough to win the 2014/15 BBM Sir John Pagan Horticulture Travel Scholarship, sponsored by the Australian Institute of Horticulture and the Big Brother Movement. At the awards night I was surrounded by horticultural greats, and a superhero of mine, Graham Ross! I grew up watching Graham on tv and listening to him on radio, so chatting to him was one pretty crazy and humbling experience! He instigated the opportunity for me to work at the Chelsea Flower Show and introduced me to landscape designer Charlie Albone and landscape contractor Mick Conway of Conway Landscaping. I’m so glad he did, they are great guys!
Graham Ross interviews Charlie Albone in his award winning chelsea display garden.
What were some of the highlights of that experience?
It’s a cop out to say ‘absolutely everything’; but I can honestly say I had the absolute best time of my life. Not only from a horticultural perspective and seeing how plants come together to form a beautiful landscape; but being part of such an amazing and awesome crew! I learnt something new every single day.
Graham Ross and Andrew Fisher Tomlin arranged for your Chelsea week to be followed up with work experience at RHS Wisley. What did that involve?
I worked with the trials team, which is involved in the process of awarding a plant an AGM. This Award of Garden Merit is issued by the RHS as a guide to the consumer. The AGM is based on various criteria that might include growth habit; flower colour, length and profuseness; resistance to pests and diseases and general plant performance. I worked with irises, sunflowers, clematis, and sweet peas. I also spent a day with the propagation team, which supplies most of the plants for the garden. They are also responsible for quarantine, propagating, grafting, and germinating rare and exotic seeds.
The fruit of Caitlin's labour in Charlie Albone's chelsea garden.
How do you think these experiences will influence your work when you return to Australia?
This travel scholarship has allowed me to gain a much broader perception of the horticultural industry. I have met some really amazing, inspiring and very knowledgeable people who have all been passionate and generous in teaching and encouraging me.I want to bring this encouragement and passion back to Australia, with a particular focus on the next generation. I want to show young people what a fun and diverse career horticulture can be. There is something for everyone: horticulture is an art, a science and just a general pleasure to be a part of!