This year's theme was the 'Industrial Heritage of the West Midlands'.
Steel - Gold and best Beautiful Border (Kareena Gardiner)
The rusted steel and relatively muted colours of the cornflower and the bronze fennel looked sophisticated. The designer managed to fit in a small rill to denote the Birmingham to Wolverhampton canal. One side of the rill was planted with brighter foliage - I was surprised that I loved the small violas on this cooler side of the planting. They sat well with the silvery foliage.
A Glass Act - Luke and Cheryl Sibley (silver)
This seemed a vibrant take on a formal garden, with the glass mulch suggesting the water that would form the centrepiece of a formal water garden. Interesting use of glass, but I wasn't so keen on the colour mix - either between the glass and the plants or amongst the flowers themselves.
Back to Nature - Birmingham Metropolitan College (Silver)
A very strong link to the industrial background of the brief. Compared to the initial drawing, however, the planting was much sparser than I expected. A good example of how nature starts to reclaim even the bleakest industrial landscape.
The Teacup Garden - Georgina Chahed, Touch Landscapes (silver)
Lush planting in this garden, but it didn't grasp me as some other did. A mix of temperate and more tropical planting to link Wedgewood's Midlands potteries to tea-growing regions.
The Cut - Priory Park Level 2 Royal Horticultural Students (bronze)
Ah yes, Birmingham is oft described as the Venice of the North. Presumably by those who have never been to Venice, or possibly to Birmingham. Nevertheless, the team here endeavoured to show how the canal system is gradually being reclaimed by nature. The bees certainly seemed to be enjoying the Welsh poppies. Nice enough, but certainly been done many times before.
Foundry Garden - Amy Harper (silver gilt)
The Potteries - Nicola Oakey Garden Designs (gold)
This was one border which wasn't afraid of getting some real height to it. The woven willows were beautiful and, listening to the designer, a real labour of love to complete. The planting was of delicate blues and whites, clearly reflecting the link to Wedgewood's china.
Forge Ahead - Lisa Niemy (gold)
Another beautifully planted border. Some great planting combinations, and the planting clearly linked to the narrative. The orange glass with black Ophiopogon grass was visually arresting, although not something most people would want in their own gardens. The Kniphofia/Euphorbia combination was one example of beautiful harmony within the planting scheme
The Black and the Green - Berkshire College of Agriculture (Silver)
The planting looked lovely against the rusted metal work in this garden. However, my aversion to marigolds struck again, in the area where plants were supposed to be colonising an area of coal. This section looked a bit of a mish-mash of planting. The magenta Osteospermum against the darks straps of the Phormium and the rusted rails made up for this, though.
I must admit to a reason behind my great interest in this competition.I had every intention of submitting a design. I envisaged a border based on the heritage of Ditherington Flax Mill in Shrewsbury. It would have had rope features, and flax flowing through the garden. One side would have been planted to hint at the dereliction of the site, and the opposite side was to have been more structured, to hint at the redevelopment currently being undertaken there. BUT..... I didn't finish it. I got hung up on trying to draw a perfect perspective drawing, and ran out of time to submit. Having looked at the perspective drawings submitted, I could kick myself. A lesson learnt. To be honest, I couldn't have matched the work of the designers who did submit and got to make their designs come to life.
Maybe next year...