The award for Best Showcase Garden at the BBC Gardeners’ World Autumn Fair, in association with English Heritage, at Audley End House and Gardens, Saffron Walden was awarded to Lucy Chamberlain, Plant Expert and Head Gardener at East Donyland Hall near Colchester, and the Audley End kitchen garden team, Gemma Sturges and Kelly Fowler.
The green-fingered trio’s fruit and veg-packed Edible Garden Through Time was a celebration of ‘grow your own’, highlighting three pivotal periods of food-growing history, and scooped a Platinum award. The Autumn Fair’s Showcase and Competition Garden assessors were gardening editor, horticulturalist and journalist, Ian Hodgson, and award-winning designers Shaun Beale from Aura Landscapes and formerly from the Leckford Estate, and Pip Probert from Your Garden Made Perfect and Outer Spaces Landscaping & Design.
The winning Showcase Garden started its journey with a traditional 19th century kitchen garden, moving on to a family vegetable patch from 1968 (the year of BBC Gardeners’ World’s first broadcast), before reaching a contemporary growing plot that reflected the organic and wildlife friendly gardening principles adopted at Audley End, East Donyland Hall, and many veg gardens, allotments and growing spaces across the UK today.
Lead assessor, Ian Hodgson, said: “This was a tour de force exhibit of veg gardening through the ages, underpinned by exquisite craftsmanship and attention to historical detail, both in plant varieties and props from the period. It worked as a garden both as a whole and in parts, with something for everyone.”
Lucy Chamberlain said: “I’m elated and overwhelmed to get this award as it’s our (and my) first show garden. It’s been a really interesting journey delving into plant history, landscaping materials and plant varieties.”
Gemma Sturges from the Audley End kitchen garden team said: “We’ve had so much engagement and interest in the Showcase Garden from visitors. Our garden teams and volunteers work so hard all year round and this has been a great way to put Audley End on the map. We just love gardening so winning this award is a lovely bonus.”
Rachel Poletti-Gadd, Portfolio Director – Gardening Division at Immediate Live, organisers of the BBC Gardeners’ World Autumn Fair, said: “We’re thrilled for Lucy, Gemma and Kelly after a lot of hard work. Their wonderful homage to kitchen gardening managed to be both nostalgic and modern, guided by age-old principles and new practices around sustainable growing.”
Winners of the Association of Professional Landscapers’ Skills Competition and a Platinum award were JJH Landscapes from Oxfordshire, with team partner Radial Landscapes from West Sussex. The team took on Gadd Brothers from Bury St. Edmunds in the Autumn Fair’s tough creative and technical challenge to build a competition standard show garden in only 16.5 hours. APL assessor, Steve Smith from Shore Landscapes, observed the teams’ build process throughout, keeping a close eye on the countdown clock.
The winning team’s 21st Century Jacobean Garden was a drought-tolerant garden designed by Adam Vetere with elegant geometric features that mirrored elements of Audley End’s Great Hall.
Phil Tremayne, APL General Manager, said: “We assessed the teams’ skills, teamwork and quality of finish, and this was a very close scoring competition between two high-calibre, experienced landscaping companies. The brief required the inclusion of fencing, paving, decking, a water feature and planting elements and we saw two completely different design styles. It’s no small challenge to build a show garden in 16.5 hours and it was the JJH and Radial Landscapes’ design with its distinctive floating steps that gave the wow factor.”
Winners Justin Himpson, Director of JJH Landscapes, and Will Burberry, Director of Radial Landscapes, said: “We’re both big fans of show gardens and it was great to work together to create this one. It was amazing to see the garden finished and we were thrilled with how it turned out. To have won against the Gadd Bothers was amazing – we’ll definitely be back next year to defend our title!”
Rachel Poletti-Gadd, Portfolio Director – Gardening Division at Immediate Live, organisers of the BBC Gardeners’ World Autumn Fair, said: “It’s important to recognise the technical skills of professional landscape teams whose talents often go unsung when it comes to building show gardens. Autumn Fair visitors really enjoyed watching the final stages of the APL competition and viewing the completed show gardens. Our congratulations to JJH and Radial Landscapes for their impressive efforts.”
The BBC Gardeners’ World Autumn Fair, in association with English Heritage, at Audley End House and Gardens featured seasonal garden inspiration, expert tips, advice and tours, hands-on workshops, and plants to browse and buy. Highlights included talks and conversations with BBC Two Gardeners’ World presenters Frances Tophill, Arit Anderson and Adam Frost, the Gardeners’ World Magazine team, David Hurrion and Chris Bavin, grow-your-own advice from leading experts at the Let’s Grow Talks area, Plant Expert Tours of Audley End’s organic Kitchen Garden and historical tours of its Capability Brown landscape. There was plant and garden shopping galore from specialist growers, nurseries and retailers, a Plant Creche for bag-free shopping, and tasty eats, drinks, street food and live entertainment at the BBC Good Food Market.
Autumn Fair tickets included access to Audley End’s grand mansion with its great hall, state rooms, dressing rooms, servants’ wing, stables and chapel, and the organic walled Kitchen Garden, grounds, gardens, parklands and children’s play area.
The BBC Gardeners’ World Autumn Fair, in association with English Heritage, returns to Audley End House and Gardens from Friday 30 August to Sunday 1 September 2024. Tickets go on sale in spring 2024 at www.bbcgardenersworldfair.com.
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