Award winners BBC Gardeners’ World Spring Fair

BBC Gardeners’ World presenter, Frances Tophill presented awards to designers, landscaping teams & horticulture students for their 2024 BBC Gardeners’ World Spring Fair show gardens.

Frances Tophill at the Gardeners World Spring Fair Beaulieu

The annual BBC Gardeners’ World Spring Fair, which runs from the 3rd-5th of May, features twenty Showcase gardens, Beautiful Borders and College Competition gardens – all of which were judged by a panel of expert show assessors.

Best Showcase Garden and a Platinum award were presented to landscape designer, Matt Le Gassick for The Inner Dancer. The garden was designed in partnership with Great Oaks School, a specialist secondary school in Southampton for young people with complex learning difficulties. The design was inspired by the school’s ethos to support students to find their path in life. Features included a timber maze, a central gathering place, secluded spaces and a carpet of native flora, synonymous with the New Forest and South Downs National Park. After the Spring Fair, the garden will be installed at the school as a permanent education and wellbeing space for students.

Richard Barnard, assessment panel Chair, said: “This year’s show gardens are the best we’ve ever had at the Spring Fair, and The Inner Dancer garden was simply brilliant. So much thought has gone into it with a very exacting build. It’s a very comfortable space that feels safe, and I think it will work very well for the young people that use it.”

Matt Le Gassick, said: ”I’m so proud of what our team has created. There’s so much innovation, thought, creativity and passion here, and I have great respect for the other teams. I never thought we’d win so I feel ecstatic and humbled at the same time! This garden will make such a difference to the children who will enjoy this special space.”

The compact Beautiful Borders aim to provide achievable inspiration and take-home ideas for small gardens and challenging spaces. The, 9m2 plots are packed with interesting planting, materials and design features, designed this year to reflect the theme, ‘Share My Space’.

Best Beautiful Border and a Platinum award were presented to Southampton-based garden designers Andrew Williamson and Laura Hall for Together. The design was inspired by the warm, welcoming and supportive space provided for people affected by cancer at Maggie’s Southampton, and featured two simple block benches set amongst a woodland-style glade with soft, calming colours and textures.

Designers Andrew Williamson and Laura Hall said: “Maggie’s was the seed for our inspiration to create a space to share in times of pressure. We’re really proud of what we’ve achieved and have put so much of ourselves into the design and build. Winning Platinum and Best Border is the icing on the cake.”

Best BBC Gardeners’ World Magazine Subscriber Border and a Silver Merit award were presented to Salisbury-based garden designer, David Long, for Memory Lane – Grandfather’s Garden, inspired by the designer’s earliest gardening memories in his grandfather’s small but flower- and veg-packed cottage garden in Wiltshire.

Best Interpretation of the Theme (Share My Space) was awarded to Pamela Barden from Woking-based Painted Fern Garden Design for The Synthesis Border, a design featuring nectar-rich plant species and nature-friendly features like a stone-filled pool and a hedgehog house.

In 2023, the BBC Gardeners’ World Spring Fair launched the College Gardens Competition, designed to showcase student design talent, horticultural knowledge, and landscaping and project management skills. Last year, two college teams competed to design and build a stylish, budget-friendly, Victorian-themed garden. For 2024, three college teams took up the challenge to create an affordable design, inspired by the theme of ‘Gardening in a Challenging Climate’. All three College teams were mentored by garden designer, Cherry Carmen.

The Best College Garden and a Platinum award were presented to staff and students from Guildford-based Merrist Wood College for Equilibrium. The budget-friendly design included a living roof, recycled, upcycled and repurposed features, and two very different planted areas, one drought-tolerant and one flood-tolerant.

Richard Barnard, assessment panel Chair, said: “These talented students are the future of UK garden design, horticulture and landscaping, and it’s extremely exciting to see what they will go on to achieve. Our hearty congratulations to them all and particularly to Merrist Wood College who were such an enthusiastic, inspiring team. The garden featured some wonderful touches and these students are a great voice for entry into the horticulture and landscaping industry.”

Jo Manser, Director of Merrist Wood College, said: “We’re so proud of our horticulture and landscaping students who have worked hard to achieve this fantastic result. It’s a great ending to their two year course and we’re looking forward to seeing them develop in their future careers.”

Reviewing all Award entries at the Spring Fair, BBC Gardeners’ World presenter Frances Tophill, said: “There are so many memorable gardens at the BBC Gardeners’ World Spring Fair this year. The award assessors have had a really tough job on their hands and I’m absolutely delighted for all the brilliant winners. Whether you’re a first-time gardener or a seasoned grower, it’s pretty much impossible to spend a day at the Spring Fair at Beaulieu without taking home an armful of new plants, a head full of exciting ideas to try, and some expert tips and advice. These wonderful, award-winning Showcase Gardens and Beautiful Borders are a credit to the teams behind them and are sure to inspire visitors.”