Meet Lee our Founder
Lee Bestall Bsc MSGD
Chelsea Designer and Winner of Grand Designs ‘Garden Designer of The Year’
My first recollection of gardening was at the age of around three. My love of gardening was fostered at this early age when I stayed at my grandparent’s cottage during school holidays. I have a picture that my grandfather took of me stood in a trench planting pre-chitted potatoes out of an old egg box. Easter was my favourite holiday there, as we would sow seeds for all kinds of vegetables (including runner beans, which I now realise is why we had spent our last holiday digging large trenches!). My grandfather is a ‘real’ gardener, a traditional Yorkshire man with Victorian values, many of which are the foundation of my beliefs today; hard work, dedication, a love of the outdoors and a passion for anything to do with horticulture!
First ever garden makeover
As a teenager I gardened at my parent’s house, but the limitations of our garden (or my dad’s unhealthy love of a stripy lawn) meant I needed new spaces to try out my ideas. During the summer holidays whilst doing my A levels, a close friend who I worked with at weekends trusted me to design and build a garden, so I embarked on my first ever garden makeover! A trip to the builder’s merchants and various garden centres meant she had invested a large sum of money in a 17 year old wannabe gardener, and although I was nervous, I wasn’t going to let her down. The garden was a real success and the retaining wall still stands there today!
Where it all began
It was after graduating from university and while I was working as a Recruitment Consultant, that I received the usual weekly e-mail from the BBC gardening website. However at the time of reading it, I had no idea that it was going to change the direction of my life! After the usual ‘Jobs for the weekend’ and ‘What’s on TV’ the paragraph below read ‘So, you want to be a garden designer?’ I still have the initial article nearly three years on, and often read it as I laugh at my response.
The idea was that Diarmuid Gavin was going to whisk you away from your normal life and train you to become a garden designer. In exchange you would be rewarded with enough knowledge to make the career change. It was a dream come true, an opportunity of a lifetime. All I had to do now was convince the judges I was more deserving than the other three thousand nine hundred and ninety nine people who had applied!
After two years, several telephone interviews and a two day audition at Kew Gardens, eight of us were finally selected to feature on the programme. Nothing had ever been done like this before so no one knew what to expect. The only thing we could be sure of was that with Diarmuid running the course it was going to be a six month roller coaster that none of us would ever forget!
What am I doing now?
The whole experience was absolutely amazing and really was as good as I hoped it would be. We visited some truly inspirational gardens and met some of the most fantastic people in the industry. Over the past ten years I have created many different gardens for all kinds of budgets, and since training with Diarmuid and living at the RHS garden Wisley, the designing of functional and manageable spaces has become an even stronger passion. My achievements to date include an Advanced Certificate in Garden Design, RHS Certificate in horticulture, a silver medal at Tatton Park Flower Show 2005, a bronze medal at Gardeners’ World Live 2006, training with Diarmuid Gavin and working with a selection of the best people in the industry.
When I returned from Gardeners’ World Live 2006, I re-built the award winning show garden at the Dukeries Garden Centre, Worksop. I am currently working on designs for a selection of large country gardens, redeveloping several small town gardens including new properties. I have recently developed several horticultural training centres and am teaching horticulture at a local college and at Nottingham Trent University.
In June 2011 i became a fully registered member of the Society of Garden Designers (which is no mean feat!) and my own garden at home helped a Sheffield based landscaper win the Principal award at the BALI awards in London for best domestic garden construction 2011 (under £20K) .
In October 2012 I was selected by Kevin McCloud himself as the first ever Grand Designs ‘Garden Designer of the Year’ with our award winning garden ‘Cloud Nine’. Our team then went on to win a Gold medal and Best in Show at the Harrogate Flower Show in 2015 followed by a silver medal at the Chelsea Flower Show in 2015 and 2016 and we’re currently preparing our garden for Chelsea 2017.
And in the future?
We love delivering gardens which not only exceed people’s expectations, but change the way they live their outdoor lives. In November 2015 we also launched our product website The Bestall Collection which is full of my favourite things.