Thursday, 9th May took us to Hestercombe House and Gardens, Taunton, Somerset for the 2024 Young Horticulturist of the Year Grand Final. Hestercombe was an amazing venue, and we were lucky to be bathed in sunshine all day. The knowledge across this year’s finalists was spectacular, and the competition could have gone in any direction, however, it was Jonathan Zerr, from the Eastern Region who pulled out in front of the pack in the last round to take the top spot.

Jonathan Zerr, Eastern, being presented his Bulldog Tools and First Place Certificate by Chartered Institute

of Horticulture President David Richardson (L) and James Hodgson of the Shropshire Horticultural Society (R)

Jonathan holds an RHS Level 4 Diploma and is currently splitting his time between Helmingham Hall and Benton End in Suffolk where he is working towards his aspiration of managing historic plant collections and fostering cultural heritage and biodiversity within a historic garden setting.

“I really enjoyed the opportunity to meet like-minded gardeners at the Grand Final. The atmosphere was filled with excitement and anticipation, and despite the competitive nature of the event, there was a strong sense of camaraderie among the finalists. Representatives of the CIH emphasized the importance of utilising the final as a networking opportunity, so throughout the day, finalists and attendees alike exchanged insights and perspectives on the challenges facing the industry”

As the winner of this year’s competition, Jonathan receives the £2,500 Percy Thrower Travel Bursary provided by the Percy Thrower Trust, which he will be able to use to fund a horticultural venture anywhere in the world.

L to R – Chartered Institute of Horticulture President, David Richardson, James Douglass, Scotland, Jonathan Zerr,

Eastern, Lawrence Western, West Midlands & South Wales, James Hodgson, Shropshire Horticultural Society

Second place went to Scotland Regional Finalist, James Douglass. James is currently a 4th year BSc (Hons) Horticulture and Plantsmanship student at the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh and Scotland’s Rural College, conducting his honours project on a fungal pathogen of Scots Pine at Forest Research. Once he has finished his degree, he will be joining the RBGE teaching team.

Third place was picked up by the West Midlands and South Wales Regional Finalist, Lawrence Western. Lawrence is currently employed as a Professional Work Placement student in the Kitchen Garden at RHS Rosemoor, Torrington.

Runners up (in no particular order)

Frank Cooke, North-West North Wales Region. Frank is currently studying towards his RHS Level 2 Certificate in Practical Horticulture at Myerscough College in Preston, Lancashire.

We would like to add an extra congratulates to Frank as he is only 16 and the youngest person ever to have reached a Grand Final. I am sure we will see much more from him in the future!

Chloe Callanan, Ireland Branch. Chloe is currently in her second year of a Horticulture degree ran in the National Botanic Gardens, Glasnevin and is undertaking her placement with O’Brien Landscaping in Dublin City Centre. Following completion of her degree she hopes to further her studies and go on to do an honours degree abroad.

Lucy Whitehead, Northern Region. Lucy is currently a Gardener at Auckland Castle which is undergoing an exciting redevelopment by Pip Morrison. Her role includes caring for the 17th Century walled garden, which produces seven tonnes of fruit and vegetables annually for the local community.

Al Coffey, South-East Region. Al is a third-year student on the Kew Diploma in Botanical Horticulture, currently working in the Alpine/Rock Garden section.

Sam Hickmott, South-West Region. Sam is currently the head gardener at Lytes Cary Manor and Tintinhull Garden, two National Trust arts and crafts inspired gardens. He is the youngest Head-Gardener in the National Trust.

L to R – Chartered Institute of Horticulture President, David Richardson, Lawrence Western, West Midlands & South Wales, Frank Cooke, North West & North Wales, Sam Hickmott, South West, Chloe Callanan, Ireland, Al Coffey, South East, Lucy Whitehead, Northern, James Douglass, Scotland, Jonathan Zerr, Eastern, Andrew Cross, and James Hodgson, both Shropshire Horticultural Society

National Organiser, Victoria George, said “I was so excited to be heading to Hestercombe for this year’s final, and the day did not disappoint. We had an amazing venue, beautiful weather, and a fantastic set of finalists who really put their all into enjoying the day, networking and getting stuck into those questions!”

    Grand Final guests in the Hestercombe Great Plat designed by Gertrude Jekyll

We are extremely grateful to all the sponsors who have supported this year’s YHoY competition, without whom this competition would not be possible.

  • Shropshire Horticultural Society
  • Percy Thrower Trust
  • Hestercombe House and Garden
  • Bord Bia (Irish Food Board)
  • Bulldog Tools
  • PlantNetwork
  • Adrian Stockdale: ‘Plant Names Simplified’
  • North of England Horticultural Society – Harrogate Flower Show
  • Hiller Nurseries
  • Cherry Lane Garden Centres
  • Barcham Trees
  • Hardy Landscapes
  • The Outdoor Room
  • Scone Palace
  • The National Botanic Gardens of Ireland
  • National Trust
  • Reaseheath College
  • John Innes Centre
  • Pershore College
  • Easton College
  • Sparsholt College

To follow the journey of our competitors and the 2024competition visit us on:

A recording of the Grand Final will soon be uploaded to our website

The 2025 Round 1 opens Saturday 1st February 2025!