Earlier in the year the good folk at Harrogate Flower Show asked me to do a show garden for the Autumn Show. I was pleased to be asked, but a bit apprehensive, as, although I've been on the show garden circuit for a while now, building gardens for other people, it's been quite a while since I did one of my own. In fact I have only previously done one show garden in my name, and it was the second most stressful experience of my life (after RHS Chelsea Flower Show). My wife had pushed me into it, signing me up one evening and telling me the next day. Now, I have years of experience as a designer and landscaper, and am confident and passionate about my work and its quality, but I had then no experience of shows, and I had a lot to learn.
I had no money to throw at the garden, and was not then well known enough in the industry to convince anyone to sponsor me. I could not even afford to pay anyone to come and help me build. I had to be canny, so I salvaged many of the components used to make the garden from the renovations that I was doing on my house, including some beautiful old beams and floor boards which I used to make the decking. Getting hold of plants was a challenge and what I eventually I ended up with deviated considerably from what I had outlined in the design brief, which was something that I got marked down for. After a mad week in the workshop I finally got all the parts made up and was ready to put my garden together.
When I arrived on the first day of the build, just me and my trailer, fully loaded with these huge pieces of woodwork, I was confronted with the sight of several teams of landscapers flying around rapidly putting up their gardens. One or two designs were nearly finished, and my heart sank as I realised the enormity of how much I had to do, on my own. Somehow or another I got there, and I was really pleased with how it turned out, and even more pleased to win a silver medal.
Despite the stress, the experience was worth it, I gained clients, and met other inspiring landscapers and designers. 6 months later I was back at the Harrogate Flower Show building a show garden for Paxman Landscapes, and I have been at every HFS since, building and project managing gardens for different people. I have also taken part in RHS shows, including the aforementioned RHS Chesea Flower Show, which really pushed me to my limits (I'll save that for another blog).
So, when HFS asked me to do a show garden in my own name I had mixed emotions, I was flattered at the invitation, but all the nerves and stress of my first show came back to me and I felt reluctant to got through it all again. After giving it some thought I realised that I have come along way since that first show, I have gained show experience and made some great contacts along the way, and I knew I was now in a better position to do a garden of my own, so, I agreed to take part and submitted my design. I'm glad to say it has been an altogether easier experience and I'm really excited to get this bad boy built.