Enjoying time in her own garden
Silver success at Chelsea
Leigh-on-Sea gardener Gill Oliver talks about her passion for plants and how she went from college student to award winning designer.
Visit Gill Oliver's Leigh-on-Sea garden and you'll feel like you've stepped into a photo from a magazine. The award winning garden designer has created an oasis in the middle of the town - with a variety of textures, shapes and colours which together create a relaxing garden
The garden has year-round interest
You might think that Gill has been designing for years, but it's actually only six years ago since she first got into it professionally, after retraining at Ambleside College where she did a City & Guilds Level Two in garden design.
She was fortunate enough to be introduced to garden writer and broadcaster Steve Bradley and horticulturalist Peter Seabrook at the Gardeners World Live show who suggested she design a garden for the following year.
Gill had only just finished her course so didn't, at first take the offer to seriously. But, they had meant it and the following year Gill's fruit and veg garden ended up on Sunflower Street, winning Gill her first RHS gold medal. She even got to meet Prince Charles and Camilla - not bad for someone straight out of college.
"It was out of this world to have finished a course and the following year to go on and do a show was absolutely amazing," said Gill.
There's always a job to do
Setting her sights high
A year later, Gill had her second garden at Gardeners World Live. It was another fruit and veg garden on Sunflower Street, and again Gill won a gold. At the same time, Gill was getting a steady stream of clients wanting her golden touch on their gardens.
Designing a garden at one of the big shows is a huge deal. But, Gill took it all in her stride. At the time, she didn't appreciate what a big deal it was. Everything went really smoothly in the first year, with everything falling into place. The plants grew beautifully, everybody who was due to arrive with plants, compost and materials got there when they should have done.
Texture and shape are important
"I was so busy I didn't really have time to get nervous. It wasn't until afterwards when we got the gold medal that is really dawned on me how amazing an achievement it was in such a short space of time," she admitted.
A passion for gardening
As a child Gill was always interested in nature and was fascinated by plants and animals. No-one else in her family shares her passion for gardening, but they all pitched in with her first show garden. Her brother and his wife let her build stuff in their garden because hers wasn't big enough, and at the show her partner, son and parents came to support her and help with the take-down.
For her first Chelsea Flower Show, Gill has designed another fruit and veg garden for Thompson and Morgan - all the vegetables have been grown from seed. It's a contemporary design, full of raised beds and has a healthy, more environmentally friendly theme with a wind turbine that will recycle rain and grey water around the garden and solar panels on the greenhouse. There are some fantastic varieties in the plot - sweet potatoes, goji berries, blueberries, blackberries, step-over apples, olives and citrus fruits.
Her garden our food, miles or metres won a Silver Knightian award.
So what's next for Gill?
"Who knows! I've so enjoyed doing the show gardens, but I get an immense amount of pleasure from doing private gardens," said Gill. "Every client has been over the moon, and you just know the garden is going to get better and better as it matures."
last updated: 22/04/2009 at 11:13