Winter is definitely coming and not just in the battle royale that is Game of Thrones. The weather has taken a decidedly nippy turn here up North. The wind whips across the fields towards the bare bones of my new garden. It cuts through my branded Garden Ninja Gillet that I finally invested in this spring, that still makes me giggle when I see it. Thinking of the year that's soon to be over I wonder should I blog about my own gardening thoughts or just garden how-to guides?

It’s not often that I blog about my own personal thoughts, but after meeting some of the Garden Bloggers at last weeks Garden Media Guild awards, I started to wonder why not? Agents of Field were as friendly and fun as their blog, and there were some newcomers I finally got to meet such as the aptly named Chatty Gardener! Usually, I’m trying to write guides for new gardeners or design style tips but then it dawned on me that maybe a bit of diversification wouldn’t harm. Heck, it may even help me to assess the work I’ve done and how better to help new gardeners from my learnings.

Looking back over the past year

This year has been a whirlwind of design and gardening change for Garden Ninja. In 2016 I won the ‘Feel Good Garden Design’ competition along with 3 other wonderful designers from other areas in the UK. The competition was a life-changing event for me. It took me from the relative unknown to suddenly putting me slap bang in the middle of a vast network of amazing horticulture experts, bloggers and designers alike. It was like strapping me to a rocket with a massive grin on my face, wondering where this firework may take me.

garden design year
Hampton court sunburn and smiles!

After winning the ‘Feel Good Gardens Competition’ I didn’t think it could get much more full-on Garden Design-wise. I thought things would slow down. For a few months, they did. Then all of a sudden in the enquiries rolled in towards the end of that year and I’ve been pretty much full time on design work through 2017. That alongside the Radio work and my Youtube channel and my years been a flurry of gardening related work.

I’ve been lucky to be have planted for two award-winning garden designers this year, The Institute of Quarry garden at Chatsworth and Clive Scotts ‘Noughts and Crosses’ garden at Tatton, which has again helped me develop my different ranges of planting styles. Everyone I have met along the way in show garden planting has been a delight. Sharing their tips knowledge and plant hacks with me.

Garden Ninja planting a show garden at RHS Chatsworth
Garden Ninja at Chatsworth, planting before the storms – not sure why there is vaseline on the lense?!

Then there has been the numerous garden designs around the North of England which I’ve been lucky enough to be chosen for. I have had the pleasure of undertaking a variety of exciting and completely different designs this year for a number of clients if you look at my design portfolio some are detailed, which has led me to look back on this year’s lessons.

So what has 2017 taught me about garden design?

  1. My client base has shifted from solely being 40 years plus to around 30-50 years of age.
  2. Garden Design customers are now more open to seasonality in planting, almost looking forward to having to prune and ‘do something’ to their new design – far from the evergreen low maintenance trends of the past (fist pump!)
  3. Clients are happy to wait a few weeks whilst the design process evolves in iterations, again I’ve shifted away from the ‘can it be done next week’ clientele. Resulting in much more personal designs.
  4. People are definitely recognising the immediate health benefits of having a beautiful functional outdoor space. Every one of my clients has listed an entertaining or socialising area as a must (fist pump number two)

Garden Media Guild Awards Finalists

So last week was the Garden Media Guild Awards and I was thrilled to have been shortlisted for the Alan Titchmarsh New Talent Award. As usual, I had zero expectation and didn’t know how many or who I would be up against. All part of the fun of this new world I’m in. I jumped in the early bird train from Liverpool for once fitting in with the rest of the ‘suits’, well minus the mohawk. I must admit the nerves of turning up to such an awards ceremony at such a glitzy location was quite nerve-wracking. Luckily I bumped into Thomas Stone first off and then a few glasses of fizz later the Garden Bloggers group.

The next bit of luck was being seated on the rebellious back table with none other than Ade & Sophie from Agents of Field, Annabelle from Life at No 27 and Charlotte Petts from Growing wild both of which were New Talent finalists. No pressure! Charlotte was the worthy winner of the award, though I was more gutted she didn’t get to meet Alan, and once the pressure was off we all got to properly relax. It was also great to talk at depth with George Williams from Smartplantapp, something which every aspiring newbie gardener could take advantage of. A quick app that helps you identify plants, pests and diseases. Which kind of completely negates my RHS Level 2 to some degree. I bet it can’t say Fatty acids and wink at the same time like me though!

Garden Ninja GMG awards finalist
Garden Ninja as the New Talent Finalist – Cheesy grins aplenty!

What really impressed me was the comradery of the attendees, in particular, the Garden Bloggers who are relatively new to the world of Garden Media. The passion to encourage others to grow, sow or design beamed out of each of the attendees at our table. Spreading the word of gardening not just as a hobby, but as a tool to help deal with the stresses of modern life. To help nurture and soften the sometimes harshness of this world.

So as the year grows to a close (see what I did there?!) I am taking stock of a wonderful year of garden designing and development. I’m really humbled to be able to do what I love all day whether it be designing or creating guides to hopefully inspire others to pick up that trowel and get started. The fact I’ve been shortlisted for awards amongst side some well-established professionals has been the icing on the cake.

Normal guide based blog articles and videos will resume shortly but I think I will move to intersperse some more Ninja musings every now and then! Until the next time, Happy Gardening!

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