Show Gardens have been a big part of my career for a number of years, in the most part these have been as a part of the training of students in landscaping and garden design, a profession and industry I love. There is no better experience of a real world project for a student than a show garden that has to be of the highest possible standard in design, construction and plant quality, to the tightest possible budget and to a very finite deadline. Whilst building a show garden can be one of the most stressful things you ever do, it is also a great experience, and one that becomes addictive. Over the last 10 years I have been a part of many show gardens at many different shows, with both Nottingham Trent University and Bridgwater College, and now Finally as Somer Breeze Landscapes, limited only by finding funding and sponsorship to allow us to afford to produce the next garden. The following portfolio takes you through the many gardens and shows I have had the privilege of being a part of;
Nottingham Trent University Show Gardens My main subject specialism whilst teaching at Nottingham Trent University was Landscape Construction and in this role my responsibility in partnership with my colleague Paul Wright was to lead the practical build element of the show gardens. This generally meant supervising, advising and assisting the students on the Foundation Degree in Landscape Design or the Foundation Degree in Landscape and Heritage Horticulture with building all of the elements of the garden during the pre-build on campus, though at times involved taking on some of the more complicated elements ourselves or when time got too pressured we would continue to build elements of the garden outside of normal teaching hours. We would then assume a similar role during the onsite builds at the National Exhibition Centre in Birmingham for BBC Gardeners’ World Live, transporting a team of students to site each day of the three week build period, then taking the garden down and transporting it back to the university after the show.
BBC Gardeners’ World Live 2004 – Bronze Medal
A spiral shaped garden with a Perspex screened pergola seat in the centre linked by a steel ‘I beam’ arch, the Perspex was coated with a 3M film which created rainbow coloured reflections in the sunlight. The wall around the edge had open apertures to see in to the garden from the back and sides. There were a row of Alnus trees at the rear of the garden providing a high green backdrop, and within the main planting a rose for every decade that the BBC had been broadcasting gardening programmes.
BBC Gardeners’ World Live 2005 – Silver Medal
Designed by Victoria Johnson A decked pergola constructed from various randomly patterned widths of Douglas Fir with copper inlays. It contained wooded steamer chairs with chamomile cushions and a fire table and was screened by bamboo planted through the deck on one side and a hedge of Photinia ‘Red Robin’ on the other and the canopy of a Silver Birch i at the front. The remainder of the planting consisted of strips of perennial planting through the gravel at the front and vertically planted Ivy on the back wall of the pergola.
BBC Gardeners’ World live 2006 – A Row of Three Gardens
Designed and built by students on the Foundation Degree in Landscape Design – No Medal Awarded A coastally inspired garden with metal wall planters, weathered wooden board walks and raised beds, Travertine paving and green roofed pergola seat with steel inlays of plasma cut trees.
Designed and built by students on the Design and Development for Landscape and Interiors Degree – Bronze Medal A modern garden with a glass roofed patio and stone seat, rendered raised beds with built in seating in the open air space facing adjustable ‘lifeboat’ planters. A metal water ramp creates a gentle water noise with minimal disturbance for the aquatic plants.
Designed and built by students on the Foundation Degree in Landscape and Heritage Horticulture – Bronze Medal A symmetrical garden, a copper trough water feature with rendered backdrop provides the main focal point with copper rimmed bubble patterned apertures. The decked area by the house has two red cedar constructed, welsh dresser styled, raised planters. At the far end of the garden to storage box seats with hinged lids, also constructed in red cedar and backed with a copper tube circle patterned trellis screen.
Bridgwater College Show Gardens When I joined the college to manage the university level Landscape Design and Horticulture courses in 2007 Bridgwater College had already had a history of show garden projects too, but hadn’t done any for a number of years other than students taking part in the National Amateur Gardening Show at the Bath and West Show Ground in Shepton Mallet under their own supervision. I relaunched the show garden projects in 2008. With a group of Foundation Degree Landscape Design students, we designed and built a show garden for the Taunton Flower Show. Since that year, we continued to design and build a show garden for the Taunton Flower Show with the second Year Foundation Degree Landscape Design Students, and then a show Garden at BBC Gardeners’ World Live at the National Exhibition Centre in Birmingham with the final year BSc (Hons) Landscape Design Students. In 2011 we began taking part in another show garden competition, The Ideal Young Gardeners of the Year competition at The Ideal Home Show, at the Earls Court Exhibition Centre in London. This is a competition between six of the top horticulture colleges in the country, and is organised and supported by TV Gardener David Domoney. Finally, and also in 2011 we made a return to the National Garden Show at the Bath and West Show Ground Shepton Mallet.
The Recycled Garden
Taunton Flower Show 2008 – Bronze Medal Designed by Daniel Bere This was the my first Bridgwater College show garden, I was approached by Bob Homeshaw from the Taunton Flower Show Committee to see if we would be prepared to enter a show garden. The college had no budget for a garden that year, so we begged and borrowed all sorts of recycled materials, including the front end of a frog eyed Sprite sports car and re-worked them into the garden. All of the planting was also borrowed, and the garden ended up costing £20 and has by far remained the cheapest show garden ever.
BBC Gardeners’ World Live 2009 – Bronze Medal Designed and built by Daniel Bere, Charlotte Darby and James Mann This is the first of the national show gardens during my time teaching at Bridgwater college. The theme of the garden was a Somerset Coastal Garden, and the final design was created by the small group of final year BSc (Hons) Landscape Design students collaboratively bringing together elements from their own individual design assignments in to one design.
Taunton Flower Show 2009 – Silver Medal Re-designed By Iain Truman This is a smaller version of the Sea Breeze garden with the same gabion seat and table, deck, pergola and backdrop as focal points. Sleeper walls are used for both sides of this garden and the shapes of the timber edged raised beds are re-styled to ft the smaller space.
On Another Level BBC Gardeners’ World Live 2010 – Bronze Medal
Designed and built by Karolina Moch, Tim Mugford, Diane Dennis, Lorraine Richards and Richard Hornby-Walsh A modern garden based upon the Brutalism period of architecture, u the dominance of rendered walling and the use of cantilever technology for the seating and the pergola, and the simulated floating of the deck. The ‘On Another Level’ name comes from the many level changed of the wall heights, beds, surfaces and water cascade. The squared theme of the garden is highlighted by the Piet Mondrian painting used on the back wall, and its representation is continued in the walling squares and cushions, which also lift the blues, reds and yellows used within the planting schemes.
The Pad Taunton Flower Show 2010 – Gold Medal and Western
Daily Press Trophy for the Best Designer Garden. Designed By William Brett, Yvette Phillips and Iain Truman An Art Deco styled water garden surrounded by white rendered and black capped sloping and curving walls. Two raised beds and a raised pond are situated to the rear of the garden, and all of the remainder is water filled. Within the large expanse of water are two large floating lily pad shaped timber decks and a lily pad shaped barrel constructed raised bed. The garden is sheltered by a large arching steel veined lily pad with a shade sail.
The Pad Ideal Young Gardener of the Year 2011 – Silver Medal
Designed By William Brett, Yvette Phillips and Iain Truman This is a reworking of the Taunton Flower Show design; it has however had to change proportion to a wider front, but shallower depth. To accommodate this the bed layout has had to be changed, former greater planting depth in the back, right corner. There is no raised pond in this version of the garden; it has been transformed in to a raised bed here. The lily pads are more in line here too, giving a more open feel. The planting is quite different in this version to accommodate the March show date rather than the original August date.
Vintage Rock T BBC Gardeners’ World Live 2011 – Bronze Medal
Central Feature Garden designed by Felicity Blance Surrounding Quarry, Fields and meadows designed by William Brett, and Iain Truman This was the most ambitious show garden to date, at 25 metres by 8 metres it took up a huge space, and contained in the region of 80 tonnes of rock and aggregate, it also involved the excavation of over 100 tonnes of soil, which was either used in the re-landscaping or was removed to temporary storage during the show. The story behind the project was the lifecycle of a quarry, beginning with an ordinary maize field, it is excavated to become a working quarry, extracting the materials used to build the feature garden, it then reaches the end of its useful life and begins to be over taken by nature, finally it is land-filled and re-landscaped to become the newly planted meadow at the other end of the exhibit. The feature garden plays on the term ‘Rock T’ as the main feature is the ‘T’ shaped rock garden, and either side are two half ‘T’ shaped rock gardens that are reflected in low mirrors to show full ‘T’ shapes. The garden however has a musical theme, and the movable shade sail is created from recycled rock T-shirts.
Back to Nurture Taunton Flower Show 2011 – Silver Gilt Medal.
Designed By Gavin English The theme of this project was to bring children in to the garden, and this design does exactly that, not only is it an attractive garden in its own right, but it is a compact, but varied play space with the play castle, a climbing wall, sand pit and the grass mound and tunnel. To complete the theme, there is a children’s size chair and table, and children’s gardening tools, as the whole aim is to encourage an interest in gardening, as our children are the future of the horticulture industry. The planting is attractive and tactile, as well as being robust enough to take being rolled on to or walked through.
Back to Nurture The Bath and West National Gardening Show 2011 – Silver Medal.
Designed By Gavin English This was a like for like re-build of the Taunton Flower Show garden, and used almost the same planting too. The only changes to the planting were to substitute the orange Canna used at Taunton and replace them with an orange Crocosmia, this worked much better with the yellow and orange at the same height, and also less risk of damage to the more fragile Canna flowers.
Traditional Modernism Ideal Young Gardener of the Year 2012 – Silver Medal
Designed By James Taylor This was a modern city garden designed to fit in with the land-craft brief of this project, so modern panels, with dry stone walling and rustic timber, smooth modern deck work with bark chippings and log rounds. The planting is always difficult in March, but of a woodland theme with spring bulbs added in for colour.
A Little Universe Taunton Flower Show 2012 – Silver Medal.
Designed By Rebecca Young The theme of this design project was concept gardens. This garden was the design elected by fellow horticulture staff at the college. The garden feature a stainless steel ringed grass mound representing the tracks of the planets in their orbit around the solar system, and the stainless steel balls representing the planets themselves, with the yellow sphere, the sun at its centre. The grass mound is edged by a gravel path and dry stone wall constructed raised bed leading to a pergola covered seating area in the corner with a mirror featured back wall.
Traditional Modernism The Bath and West National Gardening Show 2012 – Gold Medal.
Designed By James Taylor This was an exact recreation of the Ideal Home Show garden other than adjustments to the planting scheme for the seasonal changes between March and September. The woodland theme was maintained, though with ferns and grasses as the main stays.
Ideal Young Gardener of the Year 2013 – Silver Gilt Medal
Designed By Gabrielle Clement A design based around a circle theme, with a circular pergola as a focal feature. The pergola sits around a circular seat and glass topped stone ball table in the centre of a paved circle. Opposite is another stone ball as a water feature, a gravel path connects these features to a series of planting shelves and terrarium in the corner. The circular theme is continued in the use of ‘Unilogs’ to create the raised timber beds. The garden made good use of a dense foliage orientated planting scheme, with floral accents created by spring bulbs and early annuals, and planting focal points of the twisted stemmed bay trees that are picked out by the lighting, which also highlights the copper wall panels coated in one a two pence coins, and later donated to charity.
Wrapped Up in Willow and Water BBC Gardeners’ World Live 2013 – Bronze Medal
Designed by Anja Van Der Zwart The theme for this assignment was a show garden to represent Somerset, Anja’s garden was the winning design chosen from a public vote at the college. The garden included a number of references to Somerset and Somerset crafts, including willow hurdles and sculptures, traditional straw bale house, wetland reed roofing, starling murmerations and the medieval sweet track across the water. Planting was mainly perennial orientated, with many native wild species combined with grasses and sedges.
Somer Breeze Show Gardens After my redundancy from the college in July 2013, the college made a decision not to attend the Taunton Flower Show that year. As a great launch pad for my new business, I decided to join forces with my former student and good friend William Brett of Bridgwater based WB Design and Construction to design and build a show garden for the Taunton Flower Show.
Relax and Unwind Taunton Flower Show 2013 – Large Gold Medal and Western Daily Press Trophy for the Best Designer Garden.
Designed and built by Iain Truman, William Brett and Gabrielle Clement. This is a simple design with a strong contrast in the hard landscaping materials, with both the teak oiled timber and the Shao-sugi-ban scorched black timber, and also a strong focal point with or without the Caccoon seat pod. The colour of the seat pod is reflected in the planting with a very soft and relaxing scheme of blues, whites, purples and pinks. The tranquility is completed by that gentle trickle of running water.
Rustic Charm Taunton Flower Show 2014 – Large Gold Medal.