The Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) is calling on school gardeners from across the country to enter the search to find the next generation of star horticulturists, as it launches its annual competition, the RHS School Gardeners of the Year 2017. The competition is supported by leading greenhouse manufacturer Gabriel Ash.
Celebrating gardening in schools by uncovering inspirational gardeners across three categories, the competition shines a light on green-fingered pupils, passionate school gardening teams and the often unheralded teachers and parent volunteers who encourage them. Nominations can be submitted from Wednesday 11 January to Friday 28 April, 5pm.
Shortlisted gardeners will be given video cameras by the RHS to produce a short video highlighting their love of gardening, which will be assessed by an expert panel of judges including horticulturist and television presenter Frances Tophill.
The winners will receive prizes that include £500 of gardening vouchers for their school, a Gabriel Ash greenhouse or coldframe, tickets to an RHS Flower Show and the chance to work alongside a crack team of RHS experts and have a well-known TV gardener visit their school.
In 2016, the RHS Young School Gardener of the Year prize was won by six-year-old Fred Wilcox who attends Trafalgar Infant School in Twickenham. Described as ‘a young David Attenborough’, Fred impressed the judges with his enthusiasm and talent for gardening, including his knowledge of bugs and minibeasts and demonstrations of planting and taking cuttings.
The RHS School Gardening Team of the Year award recognises an outstanding gardening team that has made a difference to their school environment. Last year the title was won by a 15-strong group of pupils from Stafford Manor High School in Stafford, who took on a project to build ten raised beds with unbridled enthusiasm and worked extremely hard to make the garden a productive, pleasant and inspirational space within the school.
RHS School Gardening Champion of the Year celebrates dedicated teachers and school volunteers who show a passion for encouraging pupils to garden, as well as linking gardening to the curriculum. Sharon McMaster, a parent volunteer from Ballycarrickmaddy Primary School in Lisburn, Northern Ireland, was the 2016 winner.
Sharon said: “It has been a wonderful experience winning the award, from visiting RHS Wisley to receiving the many prizes for the school. Frances Tophill coming to meet us and garden with us was the highlight of our year!”
Frances Tophill, an RHS School Gardeners of the Year judge, said: “I’m proud to support the RHS School Gardeners of the Year competition as it recognises and rewards the wonderful work being done in schools around the UK to inspire the next generation of young horticulturists.
“Thousands of schools are helping their pupils experience the many joys and benefits of gardening, including being active, spending time outside in the fresh air, learning how to grow their own food, and developing useful life skills such as teamwork.
“If there’s an unsung gardening hero at your school and you’d like to give them the recognition they deserve then please nominate them.”
Sarah Cathcart, RHS Head of Education and Learning, said: “It’s fantastic that so many schools embrace gardening and the competition is an important way of showcasing the UK’s young gardening talent.
“Gardening offers such broad potential for learning across the curriculum and I hope that for many pupils, it will sow the seed for a lifetime’s interest in gardening and the many exciting career options that exist within horticulture.”
Di Limam, Managing Director at Gabriel Ash which is donating over £17,000 worth of prizes to the competition said: “Gabriel Ash is proud to support the RHS School Gardeners of the Year 2017 competition as we firmly believe it recognises the talents and inspirations of the next generation of young gardeners.”
To enter the competition, schools should visit the RHS Campaign for School Gardening website at: www.rhs.org.uk/schoolgardening (from 11 January)