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BBC Gardener of the Year 2001
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1. The finalists and their helpers, taken at the start of the first day before going on to the plots.
From left to right - Michelle Snaith, me, Simon Huggins (back) Jacqueline Attrill (front), my brother Brian Walsh, Ralph Cade (front) Robin Green (back) Roger Townsend, Tony Farnden, Chris Wright, Albert Eastham, David Wright.

2. Taken on the second day, this photo shows Brian in the background setting to work laying the cobbles. The fence posts at the back and the farm posts along the sides were put in on day one. At this point, I and the other finalists were in the Tropical House in Birmingham Botanical Gardens and Glasshouses, trying to identify the plants from which various everyday products (parchment, crisped rice, rubber tyre, cotton thread and coffee) are made. Note the condition of the soil. For the first two and a half days, our plot resembled a building site. Click image to enlarge

Click image to enlarge 3. Taken at the end of the second day, Brian and I get to grips with putting up the fence. As we knew this would take some time, we waited until the camera crew disappeared before tackling it. The work rate generally became slower when cameras were around due to the need for camera close-ups and shots from different angles, hence a job which was going to take some time was best done out of the camera's way. This photograph shows the first panels going on. Getting the first panels level was all important.

4. Although we started the fence well after 5.00 p.m. on day 2, we managed to finish the job before quitting time at 7.00 p.m. With two rows of panels on, Brian starts on the third row. We were indebted to Robin, one of the finalists, and his helper Ralph for lending us their powered screwdriver to help speed up the job. Click image to enlarge

Click image to enlarge 5. Day three was mainly taken up with finishing the path and side fences and preparing the soil. Much more time was taken on soil preparation than I had anticipated spending. The soil was dug over and several barrow loads of stones, glass and debris were removed. About ten barrow loads of fresh top soil were put in, together with some compost. Note the richer colour and better texture of the soil in this photograph compared to the previous three. This photograph was taken at the end of day three, at about 4.00 p.m.. I am setting out the plants in their pots on the soil surface, while Brian is finishing the job of brushing Mourne gravel between the concrete slabs in the sitting area. Having already laid out the plants at home and plotted their position on the garden plan, it was an easy and quick task to put them into position.

6. Towards seven o'clock p.m. on day three with all the plants in position. The garden is finally looking as I had planned it, but would I be able to get all the plants planted by 12.00 noon the next day? Click image to enlarge

Click image to enlarge 7. Taken at about 11.30 a.m. on Sunday 2nd September, with Brian writing out the plant names on labels, and me sorting through these labels in preparation for placing them. All the plants are in, and the final finishing touches (placing of dried allium seed heads) completed. I had arrived at the gardens a good hour earlier on the Sunday to be sure of allowing myself enough time to finish the garden. In the end, I stepped out of the garden just as Diarmuid Gavin called a halt to proceedings at 12.00 noon

8. This photo was taken in late October, approximately seven weeks after the final. The planting is fusing together as planned, and the pale back fence provides a good background against which the taller plants such as the Verbena bonariensis and Molinia caerulea arundinacea 'Transparent' and 'Windspiel' are viewed. Click image to enlarge

Click image to enlarge 9. A side view of the garden, also taken in late October. In the background, the stone sculpture emerges from the surrounding foliage. If I had to change one thing in the garden, I would put the side railings on the outside face of the farm posts. This would mean that an uninterrupted view of the posts could be seen from within the garden. I had contemplated doing this when constructing the side fence in Birmingham, but thought the extra width would make the garden marginally wider than the stipulated four metres. Not knowing whether the judges would be measuring the final plots to determine whether I had kept within the stipulated width, I played safe and placed the side railings on the inside face of the posts. As I will be visiting the gardens in Birmingham in June 2002, I may take this opportunity to reposition the side railings.

10. A close up of the detailed carving on the sculpture, taken in late October 2001. The sculpture is a commissioned replica of a pre-Christian statue on Boa Island, County Fermanagh, Northern Ireland. The stone is a sandstone block, with the original wave or current patterns visible on the undressed side panels. The statue looks out from a planting featuring Verbena bonariensis, Deschampsia tardiflora, Heuchera 'Palace Purple and Geranium Phaeum 'Mourning Widow'. Click image to enlarge

Click image to enlarge 11. Just after the announcement that I had won the "BBC Gardener Of The Year 2001" competition, with Diarmuid Gavin and the ever present film crew. In the background is one of the judges, Matthew Wilson, curator of Hyde Hall RHS garden in Essex.

12. The prize which was awarded with the title of BBC Gardener Of The Year 2001, was a sandstone obelisk designed by Midlands artist Marcus Hole. It is currently in Birmingham Botanical Gardens and Glasshouses, beside the show gardens. I will be arranging with the BBC to have it transported to Belfast in September 2002. Click image to enlarge

Judges Comments

Pippa Greenwood, Gardeners' World, BBC TV

"I like the odd bit of "touchy feely" in amongst it all."

"What's lovely is that it's quite low seating - it's like you're in amongst it."

"Seeing this is Britain, there's an awful lot of stuff in here which looks really good when it's wet."

Joe Swift, Gardeners' World, BBC TV

"I like it actually, I do like it, it's very different."

"It's quite an ambitious thing to do, trying to achieve that prairie planting, sort of naturalistic look in a small space, in a small garden, which is quite hard to achieve."

Matthew Wilson, Curator, RHS Hyde Hall, Essex

"The selection of plants is right for this style."

"The depth element....you can actually sit and look at this for a long, long time and find something new all the time in the planting."

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Pictures courtesy of "Gardeners' World" Magazine - photographer William Shaw

Read the Gardener of the Year 2001 experience
Photographs 1, 4, 7, 8, 9 and 10 courtesy of Jacqueline Attrill, BBC Gardener Of The Year Finalist 2001.
Photographs 2, 3 , 5 , 6 and 11 courtesy of Chris Wright, BBC Gardener Of The Year Finalist 2001.
Copyright A Walsh 2002-2007