Landscapers put their skills to the test at BBC Gardeners’ World Autumn Fair

It’s trowels at the ready for Gadd Brothers from Bury St. Edmunds and JJH Landscapes from Oxfordshire, with team partner Radial Landscapes from West Sussex.

The teams are preparing to go head to head in the Association of Professional Landscapers’ (APL) Skills Competition at the BBC Gardeners’ World Autumn Fair, in association with English Heritage, which takes place at Audley End House and Gardens in Saffron Walden, Essex next week.

Landscapers put their skills to the test at BBC Gardeners’ World Autumn Fair

Landscapers put their skills to the test at BBC Gardeners’ World Autumn Fair

The APL Skills Competition challenges landscaping companies to build a competition standard show garden in just 16.5 hours, putting their construction talents, technical skills and teamwork under intense scrutiny as a panel of expert assessors observes the proceedings throughout.

Landform’s Catherine McDonald has designed Gadd Brothers’ multi-level show garden, with inspiration from Audley End’s buff toned stone, its colourful garden borders, and the beach huts of coastal Essex. Design features include paving, decking, seating, hedging, a specimen tree, mixed shrubs and perennial planting, and a water feature.

Adam Vetere is the designer behind JJH Landscapes and Radials’ show garden. Based on the concept of a 21st century Jacobean Garden, the design is influenced by the geometric panels of Audley End’s Great Hall, while drought tolerant and wildlife-friendly planting reflect Essex’s dry climate.

Phil Tremayne at the Association of Professional Landscapers said: “This competition, supported by Talasey Group Ltd, is based on the World Skills UK Landscape competition that we already organise for apprentices and students. I used to hear so many times from professional businesses: “Wow we would love a go at that”, so here we are. The purpose of the competition is to show what can be achieved in a small space to an exceptional standard when using the services of professional design and build teams. Assessors will be looking for a project built around technical specification and exacting tolerances, along with quality of finish, cuts, planting, and health and safety throughout the build. Finally, we will be looking at adherence to the brief supplied: does it fit and tell the story of the theme given?”

“This year’s theme is all about Essex and Audley End House, and could pick up inspiration from either or both. So if you are visiting on day one, you will see the final stages of the competition and the announcement of the winners. On the other days, you will see these hopefully completed projects and also have the ability to talk to the APL about the gardens and the builds. The APL will also be running its popular design clinics on the Saturday and Sunday between 11am and 1pm.”

Rachel Poletti-Gadd, Portfolio Director – Gardening Division at Immediate Live, organisers of the BBC Gardeners’ World Autumn Fair, said: “The APL Professional Skills Competition demonstrates first-hand the creativity, craftsmanship and sheer hard graft that goes into designing and building a competition show garden. We’re delighted to be shining a spotlight on the highly skilled landscaping profession in this way.”

The BBC Gardeners’ World Autumn Fair marks the start of autumn with inspiration and take-home ideas, expertise and advice, practical workshops, and plants to buy. There are Showcase Gardens and Beautiful Borders to inspire visitors with ideas for their own gardens, with seasonal gardening tips and conversations with BBC Two Gardeners’ World TV presenters and the Gardeners’ World Magazine team. Talk, demonstrations, Plant Expert Tours of Audley End’s organic Kitchen Garden, and gardening and growing workshops are further highlights. Specialist growers, nurseries and retailers will be offering a wide range of seasonal plants to browse and buy, and there are gardening tools and accessories too, with a Plant Creche for bag-free shopping. At the BBC Good Food Market, there are delicious eats, treats, drinks and street food to sample and buy, with toe-tapping bandstand entertainment.

Autumn Fair tickets include 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. Well-behaved dogs on leads are welcome in the grounds.

Advance adult prices for the BBC Gardeners’ World Autumn Fair start from £15.30 (concessions £13.80), or £11.50 for English Heritage adult members (£10.30 concessions). Find out more and book tickets at

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