How to Create Award-Winning Show Gardens

They make it look so easy, but how do they do it? What is it that successful designers do to draw accolades and awards to their show gardens?  We asked Landform Consultant’s Assistant Design and Project Manager, Rhiannon Williams and our own Gavin Walley what they think show-winning gardens have in common.

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Rhiannon designed the Urban Rain Garden at this year’s Hampton Court Flower Show. It won Silver-Gilt & People's Choice Award and drew plenty of comment.  “It was really full on,” says Rhiannon. “Every minute I was talking to someone—my cheeks hurt from smiling so much from ten o’clock in the morning.”

What does she find attracts people to a garden? “Some of the most successful,” says Rhiannon, “are ones that people can relate to. Mine had lots of ideas that people could take home.” Even the simplest things inspire visitors. Rhiannon found that the disconnected downpipe running into a planting area drew plenty of questions.

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Visitors, of course, generally only see the gardens from the outside. “You want to think about key views, what people are going to see first—and what would be the first thing you’d want them to see.”  It’s not quite the same when it comes to pleasing judges. “Judges see it from the inside, so the smaller details—the paving, the pointing—is primarily for them.”

What’s needed is a balance of the two perspectives. And spare a thought early on for the materials palette. “That’s very important,” says Rhiannon, who opted for our Flamed Grey Sawn Sandstone paving and stresses the importance of matching materials at the development stage. “I chose the paving, then the paint for the walls, so it’s all tied in. If you have a slightly wrong shade, then you’re setting yourself up for problems.”

All this is, you’ll notice, an attention to detail. Gardens that win, says Rhiannon, are all about the level of detail. “You always notice the gardens that think about everything.”

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This is our experience too and exactly what Production Director Gavin Walley pinpoints about gardens that garner top awards. “The drawing and planning are done in good time and are properly thought through, right from the concept stage. The detail in drawing and planning—it’s on a different level.”

What designers don’t always realise is that at London Stone, we can help with this. “Especially,” says Gavin, “if designers talk to us at the design stage. We have a lot of insight, knowledge and experience, and can help make a garden more practicable. It pays to get us involved at the early stages, and the earlier you talk to us, the more we can do.”

And the outcome of all this attention to detail? “When the project is ready to press the button, there’s a drawing to cover every possible element.  Rhiannon’s design was an excellent example of this. There was an individual set of drawings for every single piece. That’s a lot of work for us but, with everything checked at the CAD stage, then it’s just down to us to get on with it.”

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Rhiannon also volunteered the need for plenty of forethought. “Try to be as organised as you can,” she says, “with order forms, drawings.” Not everyone will find it easy. “I’m an insanely organised person, to the extent that it annoys other people, but even I struggled with it for Hampton Court.”

So, there you have it. A design that provides something for both visitors and judges, minute attention to detail, careful forethought about materials matches, and just be as organised as you can.

Oh, and talk to us in the early stages. We’re on your side.

By London Stone Blog | Published 26th July 2017
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