ONE of Australia's pre-eminent landscape designers has been blown away by the talents of Wimmera school children.
Phillip Johnson - who won the top accolade at Chelsea Flower Show last year - visited Horsham last Friday as a guest of Wimmera Catchment Management Authority.
Mr Johnson said the highlight of his visit was the opportunity to meet the 'new generation of landscape designers'.
Mr Johnson judged the catchment authority's garden design competition, which was open to Wimmera school children.
"The designs were exceptional," he said.
"It's really quite humbling and emotional to see such a wide range of age groups grasping the concept of sustainable design.
"That's what I try to inspire."
The winners were announced at Holy Trinity Lutheran School on Friday night.
More than 330 people attended the event, which included a presentation about Mr Johnson's best-in-show garden at Chelsea.
Mr Johnson discussed how the beauty of the Wimmera and Grampians had inspired many of his designs. He said he hoped people could draw from his inspiration and their own for their own gardens.
Event manager Rae Talbot said it was wonderful to have someone of Mr Johnson's calibre visit the Wimmera.
"He was just terrific," she said.
"He was able to inspire everyone there with his enthusiasm and knowledge. Many of the plants in his Chelsea garden were Wimmera species, so we have a huge link to his work."
Mrs Talbot said Mr Johnson's designs highlighted the importance of sustainability, promoted self-sufficiency and allowed indigenous plants and wildlife to flourish.
She said more than 200 students drew on his philosophies for the design competition.
"The entries were so spectacular, it was so hard to choose winners," she said.
Mrs Talbot said the entries and accompanying design briefs were on display in Horsham Plaza.
"They will be there for the school holidays, so we hope all the children who entered can go along and have a look at their beautiful garden designs," she said.
"We will run the competition again next year and we are looking forward to an even bigger response."
Mrs Talbot said Mr Johnson was introduced by long-time friend Brendan Stemp.
The McKenzie Creek wood artist built a seven-metre ladder for Mr Johnson's Chelsea garden.
"It was lovely to have them on stage together."
Mrs Talbot said Mr Johnson's principles echoed those of Wimmera Landcare.
"Phillip just has so much passion and enthusiasm and he inspired us to continue doing what we do," she said.
"It was one of those events I don't think I'll ever forget.''
She said people could call 53821544 for information on Landcare or the catchment authority.
Garden design competition winners:
Foundation to grade three: Kyah Livingston, St Mary's in Warracknabeal, grade one, 1; Lani Jones, Natimuk Primary School, grade three, 2; highly commended, Amalee Livingston, St Mary's in Warracknabeal, prep.
Years four to six: Ben Walter, Goroke P-12 College, 1; Emily Souter, Laharum Primary School, grade six, 2; highly commended, Duncan Purcell, Laharum Primary School, grade six.
Horsham Special School: Kyle Millar, room four, 1; Michael Walker, room four, 2; highly commended, Dominic Castleman, room two.