Phil Torr in Margaretting, Essex was busy working this summer when two people approached him asking for his garden. He says that they had an open-day for charity and the dates were wrong.

‘I explained the garden was closed and they looked so disappointed – they told me that they’d been cooped up in a flat in London right through lockdown. “Hold on! You’ve kept this garden for more than a year.” I thought, “Why not allow them to enjoy it?”

After spending many hours enjoying the gardens, Phil told him that he felt rejuvenated. Phil, 68, is well aware of the importance green spaces can have for your mental wellbeing. 

He has found that working on his garden helped him through difficult times. This is why he was awarded the Daily Mail National Garden Competition.

Phil Torr, 68, (pictured) who lives in Margaretting, Essex, has been chosen as the winner of the Daily Mail's National Garden Competition

Phil Torr, aged 68 and residing in Margaretting (Essex), has been named the Daily Mail’s National Garden Competition Winner

‘It’s the first time I’ve ever entered the competition – friends encouraged me to have a go – and I was delighted just to get through to the last four,’ he says.

“To win the competition and have the Garden in the Daily Mail recognized for its beauty is beyond what I could ever imagine,” said Phil. Phil created various garden designs that were unique and beautiful, which impressed the competition judges.

His Georgian Georgian home, Peacocks was purchased by Phil in 1998. “I lived nearby, and was friends with the owners. I visited the house several times. But I didn’t think I would be able one day to purchase it. When it came up for sale, it was too good an opportunity to miss – it is the ultimate house renovation project.’

Phil and Sarah were initially focused on the restoration of their house, despite it being completely overgrown and unmanageable. Sadly, Sarah died from cancer in 2008, leaving Phil with two small children – Charlie, now 21, and Henry, 18 – and working on the garden became a source of solace and gave him a project to focus on. 

Phil fell in love with the garden after he had retired years ago from his steel shipping company.

Although the grounds are vast, he concentrated his efforts on just three specific areas. The garden now includes two abandoned tennis courts that were covered in brambles and weeds. Phil wanted a part of this space to be an English country-style garden. With the support of a friend, the wall and pathways were rebuilt using 20,000 bricks.

Phil was inspired by Sissinghurst gardens in Kent and has added a central sundial and a bug hotel to the garden. He also planted a fountain and a pool and planted colour-themed beds backed with elegant high hedges.

Phil created wildflower meadow after being inspired by a visit to Great Dixter in East Sussex. Pictured: A bug hotel for insects

Phil created wildflower meadow after being inspired by a visit to Great Dixter in East Sussex. Pictured: A bug hotel for insects

He said, “There’s beautiful wisteria. Then there’s my favourite roses mid-June, and finally, it’s full agapanthus. Another plant that I love, is late summer.”

Phil purchased some beautiful Indian wooden doors and used them to separate this area from the one he called ‘the Garden of Peace and Reconciliation. 

He explained, “The news is dominated by stories of terrorism and violence. I wanted to use this garden to express my desire that all religions can get along.”

Although it resembles a cross-shaped water feature, the beautiful rill-like water feature has echoes of Spain’s famous Islamic gardens at Alhambra. A medlar is an oriental tree that was imported from the Middle East. It was also popular in England during medieval times. Visitors love this enclosed area for its tranquil and contemplative atmosphere.

After being inspired by Great Dixter, East Sussex, he created the wildflower meadow. Starting in spring, it’s awash with cowslips and narcissi and, through summer, is studded with a variety of wildflowers – 27 in all – which act like a magnet for bees and other insects. 

Phil admits that it makes him proud. “It has worked exactly as I had hoped.

Phil admits that he's a 'dictator' and doesn't give his wife Carol an opportunity for much input into its development. Pictured: An ornament adorns the flowerbeds

Phil acknowledges that he is a “dictator” and does not give Carol the opportunity to have much input in its design. Pictured is an ornament that decorates flowerbeds

Phil, now married again and stepfather of Max (24). Carol, a talented artist, loves her husband’s garden even though she doesn’t get to be involved in its design. Phil laughs, “I’m the dictator in my garden.” 

Carol makes suggestions that are often taken into consideration. It was a good thing she’s patient with me about my being a “garden widow” and that she was more excited than I about the winning of the competition.

As well as the legendary blue winner’s plaque, Phil will get a £2,000 cheque, which he plans to spend on creating a knot garden. “I saw one in Cornwall recently and decided I would love one. So I immediately knew what I wanted to do with it.”

The garden at Peacocks will be open next year for charity under the National Garden Scheme (see and he hopes many visitors will come – on the correct day, of course – to enjoy it. 

He says, “I love sharing it.” “Winning this competition inspired me to continue working hard on it. It’s not over yet.  

Phil hopes many visitors will come to see his garden when it opens next year for charity under the National Garden Scheme. Pictured: The rill-like water feature

Phil hopes many visitors will come to see his garden when it opens next year for charity under the National Garden Scheme. Pictured is the rill-like waterfall.