People and Places
20/12/2020
Asha cultivates an aesthetic edible existence

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Asha Holmes has been cultivating ever since she can remember. Growing up in Red Hill surrounded by fruit trees and parents who were always asking her to “go pick this” or “go sow that”, she never really had a chance not to become involved in horticulture. Even though she didn’t know it at the time. 

She explains: “It was just part of my life. I didn’t even know that horticulture was a thing before I studied it. There was always a patch full of vegetables or delicious fresh fruit you could pick straight off the branch. I’ve always loved being outside and am conscious of environmental issues. I followed the academic and art route at Rosebud High School doing maths, environmental science, outdoor education, geography, biology and studio arts. Horticulture was never part of the plan.”

But travelling was. As soon as she could, Asha bought a one-way ticket to South America and headed off with a couple of friends. She touched down in Argentina and finished up in Mexico two years later. While away, she took a job in the jungle in Peru because what else would a young Mornington Peninsula girl do? She continues: “I speak Spanish and got a job as a translator for small groups of people visiting. There was just a local guide, a chef, and me in 1000ha of jungle. It was amazing. I suppose that was my first real horticultural experience. I learnt a lot about plants and the environment from the guide when I was translating, and we had our own chickens and edible fruits, including bananas, which we grew. When I came back to Australia, I got a job in the kitchen at Café Heronswood in Dromana and loved working with the fresh produce picked from the garden. I was still thinking about doing a degree like botany at the time when a gardening apprenticeship came up. I applied and got it. Now I can’t believe you get paid for doing something like this.” 

Asha was awarded the 2017 Dawn Fleming Student Scholarship established by Encouraging Women in Horticulture Australia to assist women in the industry. She completed her Royal Horticultural Society Level 3 Certificate in the Principles of Garden Planning, Construction and Planting online more than a year ago and is set to travel to Scotland to do her exams as soon as she can. 

Why the Royal Horticultural Society? Asha continues: “RHS is the bee’s knees of gardening/horticulture and has a great reputation. I’ll also get the opportunity to have a stint in a garden somewhere and learn more about growing on the other side of the world once I’ve done my exams in Edinburgh. It’s a win-win situation.”

This 25-year-old who lives with her analytical chemist partner Steffan Jordanidis and loves stuffing her face with all the ripening produce in her backyard garden is not sure where her horticultural studies will lead her. She still wants to study botany/plant science and also wants to learn more about garden design. She is deeply interested in making people feel different things when entering a garden space too. Her commitment to all things propagation is palpable. She concludes: “I read somewhere that there are 400 types of plants for every word in the English language. How amazing is that?” Very excellent.

LIZ ROGERS

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