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The Chelsea Experience with Fleming's Nurseries - Leanne Gillies

24th May, 2012
Jenny Butler
Thursday 24th May 2012

Today we meet Leanne Gillies, the lovely lady who each year coordinates all the behind the scenes tasks for Fleming's Chelsea Garden - imagine how HUGE that job is?! Today is the last chance to leave a comment and go into the draw to win one of 5 copies of Fleming's Fruit and Ornamental Tree Guide – comment before 10pm tonight, the winners will be announced tomorrow in the Grand Reveal of Fleming's 2012 Garden! - Jenny x

Fleming's 2007 Chelsea Flower Show Entry - during Leanne's 18 years with Flemings, they sure have done some big projects!

Leanne Gillies grew up in Gembrook, in the foothills of the Dandenong Ranges, and always had an interest in plants - from work experience at the horticultural research institute at Knoxfield, to school holiday jobs picking berries and packing proteas and waratahs.  She completed a Science degree at Monash Uni, majoring in botany and then went to Burnley (Melbourne Uni) to do a graduate diploma in horticulture. From there she joined Fleming's Nurseries and has had many roles, including looking after the displays at the Melbourne Flower and Garden Show, and for the last seven years the show gardens at the Chelsea Flower Show. She has been the glue of the Chelsea Project since its early days. Leanne is very much a ‘behind the scenes’ person, but her dedication to the project has been key to its success, year in year out. -Wes

As chief coordinator for Fleming's Chelsea Flower Show, what does your role involve?

I have had the incredible privilege of being part of the last seven Australian gardens at the Chelsea Flower Show. It’s pretty amazing to think that I work in a nursery in a little town outside of Melbourne, and as part of my job I travel to the other side of the world to take part in what we like to refer to as the ‘Horticultural Olympics’!

For me there are a couple of steps to each year’s entry that very few people get to see. The first part of the process is to apply to exhibit at Chelsea with the Royal Horticulture Society (RHS).  At this stage we work quite closely with the selected designer to develop the concept of the garden and to compile all of the documentation that is required. This generally happens in June the year before the show.

Leanne amongst the building chaos - overseeing the packing and shipping of 38 tonnes of tools and materials from Australia, and the co-ordination of plants from all over Europe.

Once the design has been accepted, in about October, we need to source all of the tools, materials and plants that are required to construct the garden. This step is quite different each year and is very much dependent on the specific requirements of the design. This year we visited nurseries in England, Rome and Barcelona in order to find the plants for Jason’s design.

Our gardens are quite unique to Chelsea in that we bring all of the tools and materials with us from Australia. In late February we load shipping containers with absolutely everything that we think we will need to build the garden. This includes screws, paint and paint brushes, hammers, wheelbarrows, shovels, bricks, pavers, cement, timber and any other items that are required. This year’s garden has required over 38 tonnes of ‘stuff’, not including plants.

Photos of Leanne onsite are quite rare as she usually behind the camera and always ready to catch some memorable moments amongst the team

What is it that you love about the Chelsea experiance?

The part of the process that I enjoy the most is that each year we have a completely new team – new designer, new construction crew and new sponsors. Over the time that Fleming’s have been involved at Chelsea we have had more than 115 individual Australians travel to London to work on the garden and about 130 companies involved in one way or another.

It really is a great experience to see a group of people, often strangers, come together to form a close-knit team all completely dedicated to building the garden to the highest possible standard. Our ‘Australian Gardens’ have been responsible for many friendships that will last a lifetime.

One of the things that has surprised me over the years has been how well received the Australian teams have been with the organisers and other exhibitors at the show.  The staff who work on the show and the other exhibitors really go out of their way to make us feel welcome.

It’s also really nice to have visitors to the show talk about previous Australian Gardens and how much they appreciate seeing a sneak peek of Australian horticulture and lifestyle.

Check in tomorrow for the grand reveal of our 2012 Chelsea Flower Show garden!

- Leanne

The Design Files acknowledge the Traditional Custodians of the lands on which we work, the Wurundjeri people of the Kulin Nation. We pay our respects to Elders past and present.

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