This year’s Young Horticulturist of the Year competition came to an exciting end on May 6th at University Centre Shrewsbury where the final 8 competitors fought for the opportunity to travel anywhere in the world with a £2,500 bursary. The bursary is provided in honour of Percy Thrower, Britain’s first celebrity gardener, known for his work with the BBC on Gardeners world and Blue Peter. This year’s competition received over 2,500 entries from young horticulturists under the age of 30 from all over the UK and Ireland.
Pictured above from left to right – Matthew Brewer, Peter Adams, Josh Egan-Wyer, Julia Andersson, Bryan Howard, Fern Champney, Lachlan Rae, Egle Zinkute, Nathan Foulds.
The day began with a series of plant identification rounds which proved to have an enormous impact on the scoreboards later in the competition. An audience of over 70 people arrived to support the final 8 contestants, including headline sponsors Peter Hunt from MorePeople, Raoul Curtis-Machin from the Horticultural Trades Association, and more than 20 members of the Shropshire Horticultural Society including Percy Throwers three daughters. Also in attendance was Nick Smith, Show Director of the Harrogate Flower Shows – the next location for the 2018 competition.
The competition itself began just after 11:00 and after the first few rounds Lachlan was already in the lead, closely followed by Fern with just one point between them. But after the points from the mornings identification rounds were added into the mix, we saw Josh rise to first place with Julia and Lachlan following in close behind. Going into the final round there were 20 quick fire questions with 40 points up for grabs. Fern started in the lead, but very quickly Lachlan showed his abilities taking away 17 points and allowing him to take first place. Competition organiser Susan Nicholas said she had never seen such a tight competition with only 5 points between first and second place.
2012 YHOY winner, Douglas Mackay said “They hid their nerves much better than I remember managing to and it was so closely-fought! The day had a great buzz and you feel so energised by all that horticultural knowledge.”
After the final round, we heard an inspiring speech from James Hodgson, one of the founding trustees of the Percy Thrower Trust. The prizes were then due to be presented by SHS Chairman, Richard Whittingham, however Richard thought it would be more fitting to have Percy Throwers’ three daughters present the certificates, so Margaret Thrower, Ann Kirkham and Sue Jones took to the stage.
As well as their certificates, each finalist received a collage of one of Percy Throwers horticultural projects -the dingle, a book and free membership to both the CIH and Plant network. Lachlan Rae now has his opportunity to plan how he will spend his £2,500 during his extended visit to Australia and possibly Tasmania. Fern goes home with £950 and Josh with £550 while the rest of the runners up all receive £200, all to be used in any way they wish.
The competition was covered by BBC Shropshire’s Paul Shutterworth. After the competition when asked where he would like to see himself in the future, Lachlan replied “Looking forward towards the future I could quite happily see myself in a television gardening role”
It would be fantastic to see Lachlan following in the footsteps of Percy Thrower, taking inspiration from Britain’s first celebrity gardener.
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