A MUSIC teacher trying her hand at garden design won the first competition she entered.

Michelle MacDonald, from Chavey Down, Ascot, impressed judges at Belvoir Castle Garden and Flower Show with a plot offering escapism.

The Duchess of Rutland Trophy was a boost for her fledgling business, which was slowed by the pandemic.

“I was completely surprised and I was thinking on the way up there my sole aim was to get through the whole thing without flaking and for there to be no major disasters,” said Michelle.

“So when I won it was amazing and I was really very surprised. It was very touching and the man who had done the judging, David Stephens, was very generous about my garden.”

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Her 2.5m squared design was inspired by her desire for a place to escape both the heat of the hottest weekend on record and the noise of work, people and social media.

Michelle submitted plans for a seating area, isolated by greenery and surrounded by a trellis, entered via a set of small steps.

“[It was] Somewhere where you could be shaded by this tree and you could escape from everything. Even the small stepping stones were staggered so you couldn’t just march into it very quickly, so even before you got to the place to sit down you were slowing down.”

The ‘retreat from the stresses of modern life’ was intended to offer a protected and hidden space, where people can ‘unwind with the curves of the sculpture, be still and allow the world to melt away.’

She continued: “There were 29 other show gardens and everybody has exactly the same plot to design and they all had such amazing different concepts and different ideas behind it.

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“A lot of them had environmental messages and my garden actually was about not having a message.”

Contestants submitted an architectural design for a plot nine months in advance and then had four days over the weekend of July 16 to put the garden together, display it, and deconstruct it.

Michelle, who has been a music teacher for 30 years, decided to make a change of career shortly before the pandemic.

“I really needed a change in my life. I love teaching and I love music and I haven’t stopped doing that but I decided – and I was very luck to – take a year out and did a part time course in Bristol. It kind of flew on from there.”

“I’ve always loved gardening ever since I was little and did quite a lot.”

Her first test and inspiration was her parents’ home garden, which needed much work after her family returned from a period living in work accommodation.