The Writtle University College team has started building its Ideal Home Show garden for the Young Gardeners of the Year competition.
The contest, organised by TV Gardener David Domoney in association with the Prince's Foundation, sees six of the UK's top landscaping and horticultural colleges go head-to-head to create a show-stopping sustainable garden that will be visited by thousands at the Ideal Home Show.
The brief for this year's competition, held this month at Olympia London, is to create an inspirational front garden, which would give a homeowner a spectacular welcome home and brighten up the street.
Further Education Lecturer in Horticulture Ben Wincott is providing guidance to the team of ten Level 3 Horticulture students at WUC who are designing and building this year's entry.
This week, they have been working on the pre-build of the show garden, using blow torches to burn wood for the structural elements, learning carpentry skills and making the planters, as well as continuing to grow the plants in the greenhouses at WUC.
Ben said: “Our front garden is called Burning Impression. As we want it to be low maintenance and sustainable, we are using porcelain paving, which is stain-proof. This allows the water to flow through the garden, permeating into the plants. The planters have been finished using fire to give them a protective coat, which will minimise the need for chemical application.
“The whole concept of our garden centres around contributing to the community - visually and by giving people the space and opportunity to interact. There will be simple planting of drought-tolerant plants, giving year-round interest, as well as three multi-stem, feature trees lagerstroemia. There is a seat in oiled oak and no gate or fencing so the garden encourages people to talk with neighbours. The aim is to share the garden visually and socially, promoting the greening of the community and the health of the environment.”
This year's show gardens will be judged by an expert panel, which includes horticultural industry leaders, home and garden magazine editors and acclaimed garden designers.
Entrants will compete to win the gold, silver gilt, silver or bronze awards. The overall winner will receive the Best in Show award, and visitors will be able to vote for the winner of the People's Choice Award.
Ben added: “This competition gives our students the opportunity to develop new skills that we do not normally get to teach, such as carpentry. They are able to access modern machinery, work using current fashionable techniques such as burnt timber, and build up their industry links, which are all essential for their ongoing careers or study. Most of all, it enables them to experience making a show garden to brief, which is both practical and of the highest standard.
“We have had a huge amount of success in this competition in the past, winning silver last year and Best in Show, gold and People's Choice in 2015. We are hoping our garden will have similar success this year!”
Each college is given a 5.5m by 4m plot and will have a façade that features a door and a window. The colleges need to consider access to the front door, ensuring the journey to the door is a pleasant one for homeowners and visitors.
Perhaps the most challenging aspect of this year's competition is that all gardens will be given a 140L wheelie bin, and the colleges need to offer an attractive and appealing way of hiding the bin, whilst still providing easy access for it to be taken to and from the roadside.
The gardens have to be practical while demonstrating clever use of space and understanding of both harmony and sustainability. The competition links with the Prince's Foundation for Building Community to encourage more sustainable gardening techniques. The organisation sets clear guidelines for the gardens based on the organic and sustainable principles that the charity's president, The Prince of Wales, has championed.
Each college has one week to build and plant their garden at Kensington Olympia ready for the Ideal Home Show opening day on the 24 March when the garden will be judged.