Colleges prepare for Ideal Home Show garden design competition

Six colleges are drawing up designs for the Young Gardeners of the Year competition as the Ideal Home Show moves to London Olympia.

Writtle College entrants

The contest, organised by TV Gardener David Domoney in association with the Prince’s Foundation for Building Community, launched on 20 November.

The annual competition celebrates young green talent and sees six of the UK’s leading horticultural colleges go head-to-head to create a sustainable garden that will be visited by thousands at the Ideal Home Show.

The show, held on March 20-6 April, will return to its original home at Olympia London, after decades of being hosted at the Earls Court Exhibition Centre.

Each college attended an introduction to the project at the Ideal Home Show at Christmas at the Earl's Court in London last week.

Further Education lecturers in horticulture Ben Wincott and Simon Watkins are providing guidance to the Writtle team of students who are designing and building this year’s Writtle College entry.

Wincott said: "Our entry last year focused on the theme of reclaimed urban space and the team created a pub that had been taken over and adapted by nature. We were thrilled to win gold last year and hope to build on that success this year."

Watkins added: "This competition is a wonderful way for our students to gain experience of constructing a show garden to a brief, developing creative ideas and working under the pressure of very tight deadlines."

Pershore College interim principal Tamsin Jones said: "We’re absolutely delighted to be part of this competition, which gives our students a unique opportunity to showcase their creativity and talent to both industry experts and visitors to the Ideal Home Show.

"There is going to be a lot of hard work involved, but it’s the first time we’ve been part of this competition so our students are really excited – it’s going to be a fantastic experience for them."

This year’s show gardens will be judged by an expert panel, which includes horticulture industry leaders, home and garden magazine editors and garden designers. 

Each college is given a 5.5m x 4m plot and the teams will need to both plan and design a garden that will demonstrate an understanding of harmony and sustainability. The garden should also incorporate a sense of proportion and clever use of the important vertical dimension in small, urban gardens and terraces.

The Prince’s Foundation have asked the young gardeners to come up with ways to re-use rainwater in their designs to reflect their commitment Sustainable Urban Drainage Systems (SUDS).


Prince's Foundation young heritage apprenticeship coordinator Simon Sadinsky said: "SUDS are all about making sure that rainwater can naturally, and gradually, drain away to avoid excess surface water building up. Hard, impermeable surfaces don’t allow for water to go anywhere, in the worst cases resulting in flooding.


"By incorporating green spaces in our cities and urban environments we help rainwater drain away naturally, reducing the risk of it building up in places. Re-using rainwater also plays a part in that, and I for one and excited to see how creative the Young Gardeners get in incorporating that in their show gardens."


Organiser David Domoney said: "Now in our fifth year, we will have given over 250 students the opportunity to create show gardens at a national show before they even leave the college gates. This is a great experience for them – many will be our garden designers and landscape stars of the future. This year sees a great line up of young hopefuls pitching their skills against rival colleges for the title of Young Gardeners of the Year."

Along with Writtle College, the participating colleges are: Chichester College, Sussex; Capel Manor, Middlesex; Askham Bryan College, North Yorkshire; Pershore College, which is part of the Warwickshire College Group; and Shuttleworth College, Bedfordshire.

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