The Nations School Gardening Stars Recognised by the Royal Horticultural Society at RHS Wisley

Tuesday 7 July 2015

● TV’s Frances Tophill presents awards for RHS Young School Gardener of the Year and School Gardening Champion of the Year at RHS Garden Wisley
● Schools to receive £500 in gardening vouchers, tools and the chance to work alongside RHS gardeners for a day
● Competition forms part of the RHS Campaign for School Gardening, with more than 19,000 schools across the UK participating


Heather Birkby receives her award at RHS Garden Wisley © RHS / Chris Taylor

Heather Birkby, 14, from Broughton High School, Preston, has been named the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) Young School Gardener of the Year 2015, impressing the judges with her passion for gardening, obvious enthusiasm and skill as a junior horticulturist. Heather joins 82-year-old Peter Edwards, a gardening volunteer at the Rosary Catholic Primary School, Heston, and a 15-strong group of pupils from Palmerston School in Liverpool in receiving awards as part of the RHS Campaign for School Gardening.

At Saturday’s ceremony at RHS Garden Wisley, ITV’s Love Your Garden presenter Frances Tophill gave winners in the Young School Gardener and School Gardening Champion categories commemorative engraved trowels in recognition of their achievements. Winning Team of the Year Palmerston School will receive a visit from Frances this autumn. Winners will also receive prizes including £500 in gardening vouchers for their school, a selection of gardening tools, and the offer of working alongside RHS gardeners for a day in one of the Society’s spectacular gardens. The winning Team of the Year will also receive a top-of-the-range greenhouse donated by Keder Greenhouses to help nurture their budding horticultural talents.

The road to success began back in January this year, when a record number of nominations for teachers, school staff and volunteers from across the UK came pouring in to the RHS Campaign for School Gardening office, from which 16 finalists were selected for RHS Young School Gardener of the Year (four from each age group), along with four finalists each for both RHS School Gardening Champion of the Year and RHS School Gardening Team of the Year. Each finalist was then given a digital camcorder to make a short film to share their knowledge and passion for horticulture with the judging panel, which this year included Frances Tophill, broadcaster and gardening editor Peter Seabrook and experts from the RHS.

Seeing off competition from an incredibly skilled group of young gardeners, Heather Birkby wowed the judges with her extensive horticultural knowledge, and her natural ability to engage those around her so that everybody gets stuck in. From demonstrating her grafting skills in the greenhouse on heritage fruit cultivars to championing plants for pollinators and designing a sensory garden for adults with dementia, Heather’s confidence and contribution earned her top marks and her selection as the overall winner of RHS Young School Gardener of the Year 2015. Awards were also given to Livvy Temme (aged six) from Ashton Gate Primary School in Bristol who was winner of the Key Stage 1 age group, Jasmin Foster-Leslie (11) from Ysgol Llangynfelyn in Powys who came top of the Key Stage 2 age group, and 15-year-old Ben Moore from Cirencester Deer Park School in Gloucestershire who was named winner of the Key Stage 4 age group.

In the RHS School Gardening Champion category, Peter Edwards, an 82-year-old gardening volunteer at the Rosary Catholic Primary School in Heston, Middlesex, was recognised for his enthusiasm and tireless dedication. Peter regularly spends up to five days a week at the school assisting pupils, sharing both his considerable gardening expertise and his natural talent for engaging young people in horticulture. It is his commitment and generosity, supported by testimonies from students and teachers at the school, that particularly impressed the judges.

Winners of RHS School Gardening Team of the Year 2015, from Palmerston School, Liverpool, were chosen for their incredible teamwork and enthusiasm. Through the group’s hard work and determination, the school – which supports pupils with severe or profound learning difficulties – now has a dedicated gardening area suitable for cross-curricular activities such as mini-enterprise projects and work experience, complete with raised beds created and planted by the students. In return, working on the project has helped the group to improve their sensory perception and motor skills through outdoor learning, and developed their ability to work together to create a valuable and ongoing resource that will benefit the entire school.

The videos produced by the winners, alongside those of other finalists, can be viewed online on the RHS Campaign for School Gardening’s YouTube page at www.youtube.com/RHSSchoolGardening.

The RHS Young School Gardener of the Year competition is part of the RHS Campaign for School Gardening which is now supporting around 19,000 schools across the UK. RHS research has shown that gardening can help children develop by teaching them life skills and improving their wellbeing. For more information on the RHS Campaign for School Gardening visit www.rhs.org.uk/schoolgardening.

-Ends-

Notes to editors

For more information, please contact Adam Budhram in the RHS Press Office on 020 7821 3366 / adambudhram@rhs.org.uk, or Alana Tapsell, Schools’ Communications Officer, on 01483 212387 / alanatapsell@rhs.org.uk.

Images are available free for editorial download here. Image credits should read © RHS / Chris Taylor

The RHS actively involves around 19,000 schools across the UK in growing and gardening through its Campaign for School Gardening. Children are taught about plants and gardening and their environment. Through gardening they learn about healthy fruit and vegetables, wildlife and important life skills such as teamwork, social skills and co-operation. Huge benefits are to be had from using an outdoor classroom where children can learn in a fun, engaging way. Information, lesson plans and advice for schools is provided online and is backed up by support from the RHS education team and Campaign for School Gardening Regional Advisors. rhs.org.uk/schoolgardening

About the RHS
The Royal Horticultural Society was founded in 1804 by Sir Joseph Banks and John Wedgwood to inspire passion and excellence in the science, art and practice of horticulture. Our vision is to enrich everyone’s life through plants, and make the UK a greener, healthier, happier and more beautiful place. We believe everyone in every village, town and city should benefit from growing plants to enhance lives, build stronger, healthier, happier communities and create better places to live.

We held our first flower shows in 1820, were granted a Royal Charter in 1861 and acquired RHS Garden Wisley, our flagship garden, in 1903. From our first meetings in a small room off London’s Piccadilly, we have grown to become the world’s largest gardening charity. At our gardens and shows and through our scientific research, publications, libraries and our education and community programmes we inspire a passion for gardening and growing plants, promote the value of gardens, demonstrate how gardening is good for us and explain the vital roles that plants undertake.

The RHS is committed to bring the joy of gardening to millions more people, inspire the next generation of gardeners and invest in the future to safeguard a £10.4 billion industry employing over 300,000 people. We are entirely funded by our members, visitors and supporters. RHS membership is for anyone with an interest in gardening. Support the RHS and help us secure a healthy future for gardening. For more information call: 020 3176 5820, or visit www.rhs.org.uk/join

RHS Registered Charity No. 222879/SC038262

Latest press releases

About the RHS

The RHS believes that gardening improves the quality of life and that everyone should have access to great garden experiences. As a charity we help to bring gardening into people's lives and support gardeners of all levels and abilities; whether they are expert horticulturists or children who are planting seeds for the very first time.

RHS membership is for anyone with an interest in gardening. Support the RHS and secure a healthy future for gardening. For more information call: 0845 130 4646, or visit www.rhs.org.uk

RHS Registered Charity No. 222879/SC038262