52-Year Old Nurse Wins Great Chelsea Garden Challenge

Sean MurrayA nurse turned amateur garden designer won a gardening contest in Chelsea. After days of grueling gardening challenges, the 51-year old nurse from Northumberland won the final round and beat 5 other amateur garden designers in BBC Two’s Great Chelsea Garden Challenge.

The winner is none other than Sean Murray, an occupational therapist and nurse who hails from Ashington. He is a self-taught flower designer who recently passed his NAFAS (National Association of Flower Arrangement Societies) demonstrator’s test.

Murray, who had no formal garden training, was truly astonished to win the competition. He said: “I was truly astonished to win. It is the best feeling in the world to have your creativity recognised. Watching the design you have in your mind develop on paper and materialise into a living, breathing garden is an incredible feeling.”

Sean’s winning garden design combined plants with space for off-street parking, gravel and naturalised planting. He kept hard surfacing to a minimum because of its potential for causing localised flooding and pushing up temperatures. A water-filled crevice divides the garden, which symbolises the flooding and draining of the earth.

Murray included reclaimed materials to complement the slate dry stone walling and paving. He created nooks and crannies to support nesting and overwintering habitats for wildlife. A secluded seating lay under a tree canopy whilst annuals and bulbs surround a tapestry of shrubs, perennials and scented climbers, providing year-round interest from leaf texture, form and changing color.

By winning the grand prize, he will have the opportunity to design and build a garden on Main Avenue at the Chelsea Flower Show 2015 – something that even professional gardeners dream of. The garden will serve as a show feature at Chelsea as part of RHS Greening Grey Britain campaign, which aims to promote “greening” of front yards.

For him, winning the contest is a life-changing opportunity. In fact, he plans to change his career and is setting up his own business to become a garden designer. As he noted:

“In the competition, I tried to create an element of storytelling in each garden. I am excited at the prospect of creating personalized garden spaces for others. It was a privilege to be part of an exciting, new collaboration between the RHS and the BBC. The Great Chelsea Garden Challenge was a great apprenticeship to prepare me for the challenge ahead. And wow! It’s a big one!”

The contest involved 6 designers who endured 4 days and limited budget to build show gardens in different styles, including cottage, formal and conceptual gardens. Gardener’s World Joe Swift mentored the designers whilst the event was ongoing. The judges at the event RHS Judge James Alexander Sinclair and Gold medal winning garden designer Ann-Marie Powell.