A new alliance is born!

This year’s Hampton Court Flower Show has a new and genuinely exciting twist to it for landscapers belonging to the Association of Professional Landscapers and indeed the wider landscaping community.

Earlier this year somebody with real foresight within the RHS came  up with the fantastic idea of creating four ‘Low cost, high impact’ gardens with realistic budgets spanning £5,000 to £15,000.  Gardens that the public could admire and think ‘hey, I could afford that and it looks fantastic!’

Gardens that would actually inspire people (unlike the one below!)


Exhibit titled ‘Chaos’. According to the garden board ‘chaos is concerned with the concepts of chaos theory, intelligent design and fate’. Er….right, I’m glad that’s clear. My mistake, I thought this was a flower show!

A competition was held within the APL and members were invited to submit designs and proposals.

The proposals were scrutinised very carefully by the RHS. Each category winner was required to submit detailed budgets and had to prove that the gardens could be constructed within the budget allocated. Not only that but the gardens, when completed, were going to run the gauntlet of standard RHS show judging procedures. This was no mean feat!

I was invited to go down to view and discuss the gardens so last night so I took my wife Verity and we met up with other APL members at 5.30pm before heading to the Allium Bistro (get me eh!) for wine and nibbles on the balcony. All very civilised I have to say and also a pleasure to catch up with other landscapers some of whom I knew personally and some by reputation. I also ran into Matt Moore from Landform Consultants who I went to college with almost a quarter of a century ago (you didn’t look a day older Matt!)

After a quick intro from Steve Bennett, the RHS show director, the APL Chairman Mark Gregory chatted for a few minutes about just how inspired this initiative from the RHS actually was and the impact and benefits it could have on APL members should we choose to pick it up and run with it. Now Mark Gregory knows a bit about building show gardens having over 140 under his belt to date, with multiple Golds at Chelsea and Hampton Court. He’s also an RHS judge so we all sat up and listened to his wisdom and probably got a bit inspired by his passion for the game.

Then it was time to look at the four gardens where each of the creators took time to describe the initial phases of planning and the challenges facing the build process. The great thing about private viewings is that you get to see the gardens without having to thrash around fighting Joe Public for a look and you also get to clamber all over them!

And the winners were…

Arun landscapes headed up by James Steel-Sargent achieved Silver for their garden ‘Summer in the garden’ (see picture below)

James Steel-Sargent from Arun landscapes trys to explain why large bubbles are floating around his garden.












Garden House Design achieved Silver Gilt with their garden ‘Live Outdoors’.

Slightly concerned about the structural integrity of his pergola, Rod from Garden House casually supports the beam hoping that nobody will notice.












Richard Wanless from Twigs gardens also got a Silver Gilt with his garden ‘A compromising Situation’

Well known Shakesperian actor and landscaper Richard Wanless recants a scene from Hamlet from his garden ‘A compromising Situation’ .












Mark Gregory from Landform Consultants got a Gold for his garden ‘Our first home, our first garden.’

Landscaping superstar Mark Gregory proves he also has the common touch by acting as doorman for APL members.













David’s opinion?  All top-drawer gardens, all inspiring and all achievable to the average homeowner. I really thought the whole initiative was brilliant and the execution of the finished gardens a delight to see. These guys, like us, value quality and attention to detail and it was there in buckets.

My favourite garden was Richards because the moment I looked at it I knew that our clients would feel at home with both the design and the implementation and more importantly might even be inspired to have a go at creating it themselves.

Was I inspired to do a show garden? There’s a question! It’s been 20 years since I did Chelsea and the experience was phenomenal. I’ve always been proud that The Gardenmakers win awards for real gardens not pretend ones but maybe it’s time for a rethink. Maybe we should be doing one just for the ‘value’ and for the experience. So I think the answer to that question might be ‘yes’ but we’d need the right garden and the right show. And I’d need to pick Mark Gregory’s brains a bit further! Watch this space.

After the show we headed across the road to have supper with Catherine and James Dean from Gardens by James Dean who liven up our APL cluster meetings. A very pleasant way to end a great evening.