Writtle College 2016 – Young Gardeners of the Year


Writtle College 2016. From left: Simon Watkins, Ciaran Randall, Lewis Potter, Lynn Lewin, Fabian Thompson, Louise Wells, Tyler Stamp, Kate Cox, Daniel Shepheard, Declan Byrne and Ben Wincott. 

Visit Writtle College’s website.

Come and see the Young Gardeners show gardens at the Ideal Home Show in Olympia, London from 18 March – 3 April.

Show Garden Design – Basement Garden

Writtle College show garden design. Young Gardeners of the Year 2016

Tell us about your garden

Hidden in the middle of the city is our small urban basement garden retreat. It has a roof covered with meadow grass and stunning magnolia trees to attract and support wild life. This natural haven will provide a range of colours to contrast against the greys of London.

The roof also creates privacy for the homeowner, shielding them from the gaze of people passing by. We will bring natural light into the basement through a light well, which along with the LED lighting will illuminate our water feature.

The green wall represents a new investigation in to the production of electricity from plants. It extracts electrons from water-nutrient exchange within plant roots through the use of a carbon fibre mat which is added into the growing fabric. This can produce up to 10mW per 1m2.

If this method was used in conjunction with the green roof growing medium, it could one day provide electricity to power external features like lights.

Or it could be stored in batteries and used later. This means you could be charging your phone or laptop in the garden without mains electricity. You would be enjoying nature while being plugged into it!

Tell us about the planting

Writtle College Basement Garden show garden at the Young Gardeners of the Year Competition 2016. See all the finished gardens here

We chose our planting to make effective use of rainwater. The green roof is covered with meadow matting and plants that will absorb rainwater and slowly channel it to the ground. This can reduce stress on groundwater drainage systems.

The roof will also feature two magnolia trees for height and spring colour.

The open courtyard part has staggered paving with planting in between to absorb rain runoff which can be used by the plants.

The green wall planting will be planted as a pattern to make it an aesthetic as well as a practical feature.

We are also using some large feature plants, including a Rhododendron in the shadier part of the garden, where it would have better drought tolerance. A selection of Hebes and Leucothoe shrubs will provide year-round texture and colour.

On the floor we are using Sedum matting along with ferns and thyme to absorb water but also to tolerate dry spells.

Any other interesting features?

Writtle College's Basement Garden at the Young Gardeners of the Year competition 2016 - see the top design ideas here

The roof structure is made from using Eco joists by Steico, which significantly reduces the amount of timber used and weight created. This makes the timber a more sustainable product over the usual concrete block and beam structure.

The concrete- and wood-effect porcelain has a low carbon footprint in its manufacturing and a longer life expectancy compared to traditional materials.

We are also recycling old birch logs by inserting low energy LED lights behind them so that they light up against the dark background.  This will provide an ambience to the basement area along with lush planting beds to create a cosy atmosphere, especially when the night time comes around.

How is the garden educational?

Seating area in Writtle College's Basement Garden show garden at the Ideal Home Show

The main educational aspects are the power and electricity features. Aside from the green wall, we are also producing energy from the fire unit. These are used in Africa as clay oven pots where people cook their food.

We have added an attachment that extracts electricity from any excess heat. This system will charge a bank of hidden batteries for tapping in to when required or for when lighting is desired.  There will also be a plug and USB charging port in a couple of locations in the garden.

Seating area in Writtle College's basement garden design at the Young Gardeners of the Year competition

Birch log light features on the wall of Writtle College's show garden at the Ideal Home Show - small garden design ideas

Green wall feature with lighting over a water feature in Writtle College's show garden at the Ideal Home Show

Award: Silver Medal

Writtle College wins a Silver Medal at the Young Gardeners of the Year 2016 Competition

Writtle College was awarded a Silver Medal by the judges.

See our gallery of the finished gardens.

Get the best small garden design ideas.

See our photo gallery from the competition.

With thanks to our fantastic suppliers


Oak View Landscapes



Garden Furniture

00 LG Hartman_FC_GREY smaller


Porcelain Paving and natural stone walking tiles

Global Stone Logo colour


Wildflower and Sedum mat

Harrwden Turf Logo


Bio Ethanol Fire Feature



Timber framing, boarding and Eco joists

Colliers Colour+ Strap-349


Chestnut Shakes

Vincent logo [Converted] - Copy


Green wall fabric panels



Green wall plants



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