Manoj Malde’s Guide To Achieving A Wow Factor Garden

There’s a new gardening show on the block, celebrating the love, dedication and hard work that has gone into making our gardens such welcoming sanctuaries in recent years, and awarding one spectacular creation the title of ‘Garden of the Year’.

Award-winning garden designer, RHS judge and TV presenter, Manoj Malde, joins garden enthusiast Zoe Ball and former young horticulturalist of the year, Lachlan Rae, on the judging panel for new More4 series, Garden of the Year, visiting four outstanding gardens in every part of the UK to crown one amazing outdoor space the overall winner.

Born in Kenya, Manoj moved to England at the age of four, and after qualifying with a Master’s degree in fashion design from the Royal College of Art, worked in the fashion industry for 18 years, latterly as a creative director travelling the world to Italy, Germany, New York, Hong Kong and India. He now lives in Hertfordshire with his partner, who owns a garden maintenance company.

‘As a child I was always interested in gardening,’ Manoj, who was a designer on BBC’s Your Garden Made Perfect, tells House Beautiful. ‘When we were living in Mombasa, I remember the ginormous pots of jasmine and roses that my dad would grow on the balcony. When we came to live in the UK, my eldest brother decided we would have a vegetable garden, and roped in me and my middle brother.

‘We lived in North Wembley and we had a lovely garden. In the porch, we had this stand with plants on it. I used to particularly love those houseplants. People going by would stop and look at them. That’s where my interest in gardening started.’

Seeking a new – but creatively-related – direction, Manoj, 54, decided to study garden design at the English Gardening School; he now uses much of his fashion experience to inform his work as a landscape designer, through his own eponymous practice.

zoe ball,  manoj malde, lachlan rae, somerset, june 2022

Garden of the Year judges Zoe Ball, Manoj Malde and Lachlan Rae


Now, Manoj’s been travelling the length and breadth of the country to find the most spectacular home gardens, and viewers will get a front row seat into some of the most unique outdoor spaces. ‘What I loved about working on this show, is that it’s about real gardens made by real people,’ Manoj says. ‘All of the gardens were different, and they were all amazing but there are a few that stood out for me. Jez and his wife in Wales – they’ve done everything themselves. Jez recycles all sorts of rubbish he finds, he actually turns it into something useful. His garden was like a botanical tour and really wildlife-friendly.

‘The house in Highgate was flipping spectacular. That living wall was amazing. What I loved was how the living wall made the house connect up with the garden. It was just beautiful. Then there was a garden in Cheshire. It was huge. The owners had divided the garden into different areas – and every area had a purpose, sitting, lounging, kitchen garden, a lake… It was mind-blowing, and so beautifully kept.’

Do you want to create an amazing outdoor space worthy of a Garden of the Year accolade? Here, Manoj kindly shares his top tips for creating your own amazing garden at home.

Manoj’s top five design must-haves to achieve a wow factor garden

1) Make an impact with plants

MM: To achieve a wow-factor garden, you should definitely consider planting first. Every garden should be 60 per cent planting and 40 per cent hardscape (hard landscaping) materials. Hardscape should also be blended in and softened by the planting. With hardscaping too, we should always be thinking about permeability. So choose materials and a design that allows rainwater to penetrate into the ground.

tranquil garden landscape

AntoninapotapenkoGetty Images

2) Site seating away from the house

MM: Seating areas don’t always have to be right up at the house. You should always look at a place to sit in other parts of the garden. This gives you a reason to venture around the garden and experience it all. By all means have more than one seating area, a place you can sit in the shade, and a place to sit in the sun. If my clients are worried about budget, I always tell them to wait until the end of the season to buy their garden furniture – there are great bargains to be had from this time of the year onwards.

garden ideas, outdoor seating area filled with cushions, plants and a side table

House Beautiful/Mark Scott

baked tile co, marrakesh terracotta brick dark light matt

Marrakesh Terracotta Brick, Dark Light Matt, Baked Tile Co.

Baked Tile Co.

3) Make sure it’s private

    MM: That feeling of a private, enclosed outdoor space is very seductive. Privacy screening doesn’t have to be a man-made screen. You can achieve it with pleached trees, hedges and fences absolutely smothered in climbers. I really like seating areas with pleached trees coming out, and a bit of underplanting underneath. Then you feel like you can sit inside the trees and greenery.

    In terms of plants, cherry blossom trees grow fairly quickly and the paulownia tree puts on height very quickly. For climbers, trachelospermum (star jasmine) is gorgeous and evergreen with white fragrant flowers. Then there is clematis armandii and clematis montana, and roses; I love ‘open’ roses because they attract bees and butterflies. Bobby James (a white rambling rose) is a really good one, really highly scented.

    4) Just add water

    MM: Water in the garden can be done in so many different ways. You could have a really OTT water feature that has been designed for you. But if budget is an issue, there are some brilliant off-the-shelf, plug and play water features which are really inexpensive and will add sound and texture to your garden. Or even just a bowl of water. We have those at home, and the local cats come in for a drink, the birds and the bats swoop down and we’ve even got little frogs, which are great in a garden because they will eat the slugs.

    garden water feature   solus decor water dome 26 portobello and brass

    5) Get brave with colour

    MM: Colour definitely, don’t be scared of colours in the garden. Not just because colours really give the wow factor, but because they make people smile. When you’re thinking about walls, tester pots don’t cost the earth so use them. Remember, colours outdoors behave differently to indoors. They change all the time depending on the light, where the sun is, and the time of year. One of my favourite ideas is to paint the fence a dark colour, which makes any shade of green against it really pop out. You can also paint screens or an old wooden bench in a standout shade to create interest.

    anyday brights 2 seater metal garden sofa   melon yellow, john lewis

    ANYDAY Brights 2-Seater Metal Garden Sofa – Melon Yellow, John Lewis

    John Lewis & Partners

    cuprinol garden shades   black ash

    • Garden of the Year airs nightly for six nights, starting on 22nd August at 9pm on More4.

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