Eco Living / Grand Designs Live / Homes & Interiors

Ben Harrison’s Inside-Out Garden at Grand Designs Live 2013

Grand Designs Live Garden Designer of the Year 2013 was one of my highlights at Grand Designs Live this year. While admiring the beautiful entries, I met Ben Harrison, a landscape gardener from Worcester. His entry into the competition caught my eye with its upcycled, eco theme. I just had to share it with you.

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Ben, 22, has been working as a landscaper for three and a half years. As Ben explained to me, entering the competition was, to him, a ‘red scarf idea’, using the garden as something unique to be recognised by. The theme for the competition this was Urban Eco Kitchen. Ben’s garden, The Inside-Out Kitchen Garden, was ‘designed for a person’. He used himself as the ‘person’ in question, and created a unique eco garden using recycled pieces. The garden itself took three days to build on site by Ben himself and his younger brother in the run up to the competition.

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“People need an attitude changing garden…”

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When I asked Ben why he created his garden, he told me that ‘people need an attitude changing garden, and this garden is attitude challenging.’ Almost all of the pieces in the Inside-Out Kitchen Garden were recycled or upcycled. The sink, for example, was bought for 99p from Ebay. Once the garden was dismantled, it found its new home plumbed into a functioning bathroom. After one of Ben’s friends gutted their kitchen to make their Victorian layout open plan, he received several 1930s solid oak doors second hand. These formed the back wall of the garden and also the pagoda. Ben didn’t want his garden to be ‘high end or commercial’. Instead, he focussed on showing what can be achieved with time, planning, and careful sourcing.

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Ben told me he used upcycled pieces because ‘they are already made, you just have to change their purpose.’ The floor of the garden was made from crushed glass from bottle banks, laid on COREgravel units. He created a wall of jam jars and filled them with herbs, which he gave away to visitors on the last day of the event. When I asked him why, he told me that people would end up getting another herb plant to sit next to the one they already have, then another, and eventually have their own herb gardens.

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“If there’s any opportunity to grow something in an urban environment, do it.”

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The most inspiring aspect of this garden is its effects on the visitors to Grand Designs Live. I watched people leave with herbs in hand, eager to start their own herb gardens. Ben spent a lot of time chatting with enthusiastic visitors during his time at the event, passing on tips to help them create their own eco gardens. To Ben, the most important aspect of creating a successful garden is having enough time to try different arrangements and carefully plan the layout. When working with recycled, free, materials it’s even more important to have enough time to ‘cherry-pick’ the best items.

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Although Ben didn’t win the competition, he did succeed in creating his ‘attitude changing garden’. He also plans to enter the competition again for the Grand Designs Live London 2014 event. Ben’s ethos is fantastic: ‘if there’s any opportunity to grow something in an urban environment, do it.’ And, after seeing the Inside-Out Kitchen Garden, I can’t help but agree.

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