The Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) has today launched its annual search for the most talented and inspiring school gardeners in the RHS School Gardeners of the Year 2016 competition. Schools across the UK are invited to nominate their gardening superstars for three coveted awards: RHS Young School Gardener of the Year, RHS School Gardening Team of the Year, and RHS School Gardening Champion of the Year. The deadline for entries is Friday 22 April.
Shortlisted nominees will then be asked to make a short video demonstrating their love of gardening, which will be judged by an experienced panel headed up by horticulturist and television presenter Frances Tophill.
Winners of the three categories will receive a host of prizes including £500 in gardening vouchers for their school, tools, tickets to an RHS Flower Show and opportunities such as the chance to work alongside RHS gardeners for a day or a visit from Frances to their school, to help make the most of their school garden.
In 2015 the RHS Young School Gardener of the Year competition was won by Heather Birkby, 14, from Broughton High School, Preston. Heather impressed the judges with her broad horticultural knowledge, and her natural ability to engage those around her. She also demonstrated her dedication to the diverse benefits of gardening, by championing plants for pollinators, and designing a sensory garden for people with dementia.
RHS School Gardening Team of the Year was Palmerston School, Liverpool, which was praised for its incredible teamwork and enthusiasm. The school – which supports pupils with learning difficulties – has worked hard to create a dedicated gardening area suitable for cross-curricular activities such as mini enterprise projects and work experience.
RHS School Gardening Champion of the Year aims to find dedicated teachers and school volunteers who are helping to teach young people valuable skills in the garden. Last year Peter Edwards, an 82-year-old gardening volunteer who regularly spends five days a week assisting pupils at his local primary school in gardening activities, was recognised for his enthusiasm and tireless dedication.
Heather Birkby, RHS Young School Gardener of the Year 2016, said: “I was surprised to be chosen as one of the finalists of Young School Gardeners of the Year, and I was very excited when I heard that I had won. The competition helped me realise the vast range of skills we have learnt at our school gardening club, and given me the opportunity to share ideas with the other RHS School Gardeners of the Year finalists.
“It has brought huge benefits not just to me but to my school and other local schools; more pupils are interested in gardening and more people have asked to get involved in the school gardening club. It has been a wonderful experience and I encourage any schools considering entering to get involved!”
Frances Tophill, horticulturist, television presenter and RHS School Gardeners of the Year judge, said: “I love working with the RHS Campaign for School Gardening. Every year I meet individuals, teachers, mentors and teams who inspire me with a fresh perspective or a new idea and buckets of enthusiasm. Fitting horticulture into an already bustling school life takes dedication and perseverance, but is wonderful for all aspects of a young person's development and it’s essential that we train and inspire the horticulturists of the future.
“This is a campaign I am proud to be part of and the RHS School Gardeners of the Year competition gives people the recognition they deserve for their wonderful work.”
Sarah Cathcart, RHS Head of Education and Learning, said: “The RHS School Gardeners of the Year is a fantastic way to showcase the talent of the country’s young horticulturists, involve more schools in the RHS Campaign for School Gardening and enthuse more children and young people about the benefits of horticulture and the diverse career opportunities it can provide.”
To enter the competition, schools should head to the RHS Campaign for School Gardening website at www.rhs.org.uk/schoolgardening To get an idea of what the RHS is looking for, view the 2015 finalists’ videos on the RHS Campaign for School Gardening’s YouTube page at www.youtube.com/user/RHSSchoolGardening