South Warwickshire college group's 'smart garden' a hit at Ragley Hall countryside festival

The garden was designed to educate visitors on four ‘smart’ themes

Angela Joyce (CEO of WCG) with celebrity chef James Martin. Photo supplied

The work of south-Warwickshire based college students was a hit at a national countryside festival as their nature-inspired exhibit attracted selfie-taking visitors.

Guests arrived in full force to enjoy this year’s The Game Fair at Ragley Hall last week (Friday July 23), with thousands stopping by WCG’s show garden to take photos under its floral arch.

The show garden featured every type of garden setting from wild flower turf to vegetable patches, all designed and planted up by staff and students at Pershore College and Moreton Morrell College.

Left to right: Richard Goldsmith of Pershore College, horticulture technician and manager of the volunteers, with Lindsay Beswick, Peter Dayer, Philip Hall, Anne Chisholm, Alison Clark and Mark Whittaker. Photo supplied

With more than 2,000 plants on display, the garden provided a picturesque background for hordes of selfie-taking visitors enjoying the warm weather on the first weekend since ‘Freedom Day’.

The project, which promoted the use of technology in gardens and how horticulture is adapting to modern times, saw staff and students join forces from a range of courses, including horticulture, landscaping and floristry, to create the garden.

Support was provided by a range of sponsors and businesses including Tarmac, Talasey, Gardens of Reflection, Keder Greenhouses, Readyhedge, Cub Cadet, Solar Technology International, Electric Zoo and Vegepod.

The garden was designed to educate visitors on four ‘smart’ themes in dedicated sections including the Climate Change Garden, which explored the effects of changing weather conditions; the Eco Garden, which looked at the importance of biodiversity; the Production Garden, which encouraged people to make the most of small green spaces at home; and the Smart Garden, which explored the ways technology can be incorporated into a garden setting.

From the left, Peter Manford (WCG), Angela Joyce (WCG), Chris White (WCG) and Hazel Pilling (Coventry and Warwickshire Chamber of Commerce). Photo supplied

The Smart Garden also featured a replica Porsche 356 complete with full electric engine conversion.

Mark Whittaker, of WCG, said: “The students put together a very unique and engaging range of attractions and the feedback we have received has been absolutely superb.

“Over the course of the weekend our students and staff have inspired lots of visitors to be enthusiastic about nature and their home gardens and I have to commend them for the way they

approached the whole project, it has been a huge success.

The replica Porsche 356. Photo supplied

“It provided not only an opportunity for students and staff to show their skills, but offered something a little different to the rest of the show.

“We even had guests asking if the students could come and do some horticultural work or floristry displays for them, which is extremely promising for the future and indicates the high standards that they are reaching in their work.”

Warwick and Leamington MP Matt Western also praised the Warwickshire College Group (WCG) and its students for their stand.

He said: “It was a great initiative to demonstrate the various courses being taught by the college.

The Game Fair at Ragley Hall. Photo supplied

“The Game Fair not only exhibited the work of some of our region’s most talented innovators, but it was also a beautiful display of horticultural expertise.

The MP met with students and discussed their courses and how they had coped during the pandemic.

“The WCG is a vital resource for young people in our region and in Warwick and Leamington,” he said.

“It encourages creativity and enterprise and is a shining light of what Further Education can do for young people in the UK.

“The horticultural displays were impressive as was the ‘taster’ food being served on the stand. It was a real credit to the students and all the staff”.”