Which ferns float your boat?

The Daily Telegraph - Gardening - - Plants -

Young fern fancier Hope Sharp, who gar­dens on her par­ents’ boat, wants to in­spire her peers, she tells Emma Mills

Work­ing at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show is a daunt­ing prospect for most plants­peo­ple, but for young fern fancier Hope Sharp it was a dream come true when she was asked to work on Bow­den Hostas stand as the show’s youngest am­bas­sador.

The 16-year-old landed the job when she at­tended the show in 2014. She started talk­ing to Tim Pen­rose, Bow­den’s owner, and they be­gan to dis­cuss the Latin names for plants and talked about a bi­ol­ogy project Hope had done on ferns at school. Tim was so im­pressed by her knowl­edge and de­meanour he in­vited her to join his team at Chelsea the fol­low­ing year.

She re­turned this year for the sec­ond time, af­ter be­com­ing the stand’s best­selling sales­woman in 2015.

She says: “Chelsea was great, but it’s also bizarre be­cause there is no­body else my age there. Last year I found that par­tic­u­larly daunt­ing, but this year I’ve be­come my­self more and it’s been nice to re­turn.”

For Hope, one of the high­lights of be­ing at the show was that she was able to work along­side Prof Dick Hay­ward, who coin­ci­den­tally was the old­est ex­hibitor at Chelsea.

Hope said: “Dick is a lovely guy and he ed­u­cated me so much on ferns. He was telling me how to col­lect spores, how to prop­a­gate and he gave me some new sapling ferns to try and grow my­self. I’ve learnt some re­ally in­ter­est­ing skills that no one else has been able to show me.”

Hope has al­ways had an eye for gar­den­ing: “From a young age my mum and my gran would take me out into the gar­den and I would watch them plant dif­fer­ent flow­ers.

“The first plant that I got stuck into be­fore I dis­cov­ered the world of ferns was a petu­nia. I kept it in my own lit­tle pot and used to look af­ter it all the time.

“Even­tu­ally my par­ents gave me a small part of our gar­den to ex­per­i­ment with. The prob­lem was it was sur­rounded by con­crete and I couldn’t get any­thing to grow, it was re­ally damp and would of­ten get quite bog-like.

“I think that’s how my love for ferns came about be­cause they love those damp shady con­di­tions and they grew re­ally well. Soon I had cov­ered the whole gar­den in ferns and ivy. It looked beau­ti­ful.”

Hope has con­tin­ued to ex­pand her pas­sion for gar­den­ing as she’s grown older: “It’s quite an un­usual thing for a young per­son to be into gar­den­ing, it’s not seen as be­ing very cool or some­thing that teenagers should be into.

“Peo­ple think we should be into fashion and video games, and of course I’m into all of that stuff as well, but I love gar­den­ing be­cause it means that I can get back to na­ture. With the stress of GCSEs es­pe­cially, it’s so nice to be able to

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