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Scottish Book Trust representative joins Pocket Garden judging panel

A blog post by Ella McLellan

For the seventh year in a row, we are running our Pocket Garden Design Competition where we invite school pupils and nursery children (ages 3-18) from across Scotland to design a miniature garden which includes edible plants, plants for wildlife and reuses something. We are running this popular competition in partnership with Garden for Life Forum.

This year’s themes include the Year of Stories, One Planet Picnic and Wildlife Gardening so we are delighted to announce that Ella McLellan from Scottish Book Trust will be joining us as a judge. Ella tells us why she is so excited to be part of the panel and what she’s looking forward to seeing in the entries.

I was delighted when I was asked if I would help to judge this year’s Pocket Garden design competition, because it combines two things I feel really passionate about, reading and nature.

Both share really positive commonalities. Reading books that you love and spending time in nature are both proven ways of reducing stress and anxiety. Delving into new worlds through books, or discovering the vibrant wildlife around you, can also help you to feel less isolated and lonely.

This lovely project is bringing both together, in a powerfully beneficial combination.

Inspiring Individual Choices.

In my role as an Outreach Coordinator for Scottish Book Trust I spend a lot of my time encouraging teachers to create positive reading cultures in schools. Great reading cultures enable young people to find the books that really inspire them, fire their imagination, immerse them in a narrative or spark questions and curiosity. They recognise that we all love to read different things, and that all reading, from classics to crime to comics, is good reading.

I feel the same way about gardens. Everyone loves a different type of garden. Some people love a big overgrown cottage style garden, others like neat colourful bedding plants, many like modern architectural spaces and some just want to grow fantastic vegetables! There is no ‘right way’ to create a garden, each is as unique as the individual who creates and loves it. Encouraging young people to experiment and play with gardening is powerful, in the same way that discovering the books they enjoy is exciting. Both create connections and ownership, both recognise the child as the agents of their own world, with a right to choose. I hope to see exciting and experimental gardens in this competition, ones that are unique to the young people who have designed them.

Story Gardens.

A garden can also tell a story, just like a great book does.  As you step into each, you will immediately get a sense of the world that has been brought into being by its creator. A mystery book might start with a strange discovery, a mysterious garden might start with a hidden overgrown gate. A fantasy book might begin with a beautiful world full of strange creatures, a fantasy garden may do exactly the same thing. What then might a sci-fi garden look like, or a garden full of romance, a garden of adventure or even a murder mystery garden? A garden might even reflect the world inside an individual book that its designer loves.

Perhaps the garden stories young people want to tell will be even more personal than this. A kind of non-fiction narrative if you will. Perhaps they will tell stories of the changing climate, of bullying and kindness, of social change, of their communities, or their hopes and dreams for the future?

Whatever stories they choose, I look forward to ‘reading’ the garden narratives, and I hope that this competition will take those who design them, and those who get to enjoy their storytelling, on a creative adventure.

The Pocket Garden Design Competition helps children learn about our environment and how to protect wildlife, as well as being a fantastic Eco-Schools action that contributes to a school or nursery’s’ Green Flag Award. If you’ve been inspired, get creating and send your entries in by 5pm on 25 February 2022 to

For more information and inspiration check out our Pocket Garden Design Competition webpage.

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