Former student Mel Jolly, wins BBC Gardeners World Design competition

By Mel Jolly Garden Design
See NS&I Competition Details

My design provides a practical space for every stage of growing food in the garden – seed tray for propagation, cold frames for the more tender plants, the main growing beds and upright support for climbing plants right through to a compact composter in the small storage area to recycle unwanted parts of the plants. In a time where convenience seems to be paramount to people’s lives I feel this design brings together this convenience with a more old fashioned but increasingly popular pastime of growing our own food. It also brings in a social aspect with a bar table that can not only be used for potting and working but also for eating some of the produce grown.

The main features of this garden are the central multipurpose table and the large curved boundary wall. The table is divided into sections – half of which is a storage compartment for all the tools needed and a small composting bin. This can be screened off and locked by a concertina type door. Quarter of the table can be used as a bar area for working and eating. The remaining surface of the table has a seed tray incorporated into it. Below the seed tray the table is screened off with glass to provide a cold frame. The curved wall will be painted with blackboard paint to keep a regular maintenance schedule for work in the garden and joins onto a lower wall with more glass cold frames.

Most of the material used to construct this garden is timber. Timber is extremely durable and if properly managed potentially indefinitely renewable. All timber used will be sustainable timber with the internationally recognised Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certification. I have used very little hard landscaping –most of the ground surface will be pea shingle to give a sustainable drainage system. SuDS. If money allows the large wall will be constructed in such a way as to harvest rainwater for re-use in the garden. The garden contains a small compact compost tumbler.

I believe my design provides an organised, practical and aesthetic place to grow food. Allotments and growing at home have taken off in the past few years but there are still many people who have the will to grow their own but not quite the way. This is often because they don’t quite know how to go about it or don’t have much time. My design is compact and everything is on hand. Also because it has a good space for sitting it means some jobs can be done in a very relaxed and social way in an ‘around the kitchen table’ kind of way. It is also a place for relaxing in a beautiful space not just for working. The ground pattern is not traditional and I think it is good to show that growing food doesn’t have to be ‘allotment’ in style but plants can really be grown in such different ways. The design will be chic, but not at the expense of sustainability or practicality which will still be paramount.


The plants I have chosen are all plants that would usually be either sown, planted or harvested during May and June. They are also varieties that I feel are popular and commonly eaten, especially salad foods and fruit. From a design point of view many of the plants have red colourings which I believe will look stunning as well as taste delicious.


John Brookes; a Landscape Design Legend

On Thursday 11th March 2010, I had arranged a very special ‘MasterClass’ at the Oxford College of Garden Design with Landscape design legend, John Brookes


I’m not exaggerating when I say that he is the most influential garden designer of the 20th Century alive today and we were very honoured to have him talk at St Hugh’s College Oxford, as he rarely agrees to speak at these types of events anymore.

John, now into his 70’s, has a career spanning nearly 50 years and without his contribution to the world of garden design, I suspect that many of us, would not be in practice today. 

His 24 best selling books kick started the garden design revolution back in the 60’s and continue to play a major role today.

Books like the Room Outside and the The Garden became hugely popular all over the world and have influenced two generations of home owners and landscape designers alike.

At a time when the garden was little more than a place for drying clothes and growing vegetables, he coined the phase ‘the room outside’ and so introduced the world to the concept of the garden, as an extension of the living environment of the home.

John will undoubtedly go down in history with the likes of Russell Page and Thomas Church, but when I asked him at the end of his talk during the Q&A session “what he wanted his legacy to be” he quietly replied that he “just wanted someone to look after his gardens”

Such modesty from someone so influential, touched many in the 60 strong audience including myself. A lesson several others in our industry (who shall remain nameless) would do well to remember.

Extracts from the John Brookes MasterClass