Which ferns float your boat?
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