Chris and Tony scoop gold at garden show

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A garden designer from the Lutterworth area scooped a gold award and the coveted Best in Show title at this year’s Gardeners’ World Live event.

Chris Cooper-Hayes, from Leire, near Lutterworth, along with fellow designer Tony Harding, from Elmesthorpe near Hinckley, received a Gold Medal and won Best in Show at the Royal Horticultural Society event at Birmingham’s NEC recently.

The pair’s winning border design entitled Poet’s Last Rest was inspired by the work of war poets.

The garden depicted the final journey of a soldier on his way to war where he finds a shady spot on the edge of a wood with a wildflower meadow before him.

Here he sits and writes one last poem before continuing on his march into battle.

Father-of three Chris, who runs Cooper-Hayes Garden Design and is also a graphic designer, said: “On this, the centenary year of the First World war, the brief for our garden was very emotive, and it is with some small satisfaction that it made some of the team in the RHS office cry.

“We knew our garden had a powerful story to tell, and so it was down to the integrity of the planting and the execution to bring the idea to life and capture this moment of calm where the soldier dreams of his garden back home and the sweetheart he’s left behind.

“The judges were really impressed with how we managed to fit so much narrative into such a small space and the public loved how tranquil the garden felt.”

Central to the duo’s design was a multi-stemmed silver birch, surrounded by geraniums, campanulas and ferns.

This lush scheme was underplanted with a range of other plants including the aptly-named Bugle.

The front of the garden was a meadow filled with poppies yet not a single flower bloomed until the morning of judging, when one tiny poppy emerged, representing the fallen soldier.

To add an element of theatre in the garden, Chris and Tony propped an army helmet against the stump, along with a soldier’s notebook and pencil, complete with journal entries and pencil drawings, and Chris even wrote some poetry to add to the realism.

Chris added: “The extra added touches helped to flesh out the idea and visitors and judges alike commented on how touching they found the scene.”

Chris and Tony both trained in horticulture and garden design at Brooksby Melton College in the county.