Kent Prison Wins Prestigious Garden Competition

Friday 5 September 2014

HMP Maidstone wins Royal Horticultural Society backed Garden Challenge

HMP Maidstone in Kent has been named winner of the prestigious Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) backed Windlesham Trophy Competition 2014 for the best-kept prison garden in England and Wales. This is the prison’s second victory in the competition’s 30-year history; previously it won the trophy in 1991.

RHS President Sir Nicholas Bacon presented the Windlesham Trophy, a specially engraved brass Green Goddess fire-engine bell, to Maidstone’s prisoners and staff during a special ceremony at the prison on 5 September 2014.

Competition judges, Fiona Crumley, Michael Hickson VMH and RHS Council Member Jon Wheatley, praised both the 15 prisoners and the Maidstone garden staff for their extensive knowledge of plant cultivation, across vegetables, bedding plants, herbaceous borders, wildflowers, trees and shrubs, as well as their general enthusiasm for plants.

The winning garden impressed the judges with its combination of formal and informal planting. ‘Garden rooms’ used both naturalistic, wildflower meadow planting and more formal, structured designs.

The garden’s focus on biodiversity, conservation and wellbeing also caught the judges’ eye. The creation of ‘bug-hotels’, nectar-rich wildflower meadows and systems to turn waste into garden compost demonstrated the sustainable horticultural practices that are now assessed as part of the competition.

Speaking about the positive impact gardening has had on prisoners, HMP Maidstone Governor David Atkinson said: “Head Gardener Justin Scott and his team have managed to create areas around the jail of beauty and simplicity which draw the eye and the heart away from the sometimes austere and cold environment.

“Without realising it the gardens team have created areas which are representative of Maidstone’s foreign national population by showcasing their diversity in the different types of flowers, plants and grasses. The gardening party have overcome language and cultural barriers and joined together as a team, learning to value each other’s contribution.

“Justin has been able to teach new and transferrable skills which can be universally applied irrespective of where individuals will eventually live. His enthusiasm and positive attitude have had a major impact on his team and these gardens are a testament to that.

“We are extremely proud of Justin and his team for not only winning this award but for also creating wonderful spaces in which to live and work.”

The Chairman of the judges, Michael Hickson, said: “It is pleasing to see prisoners taking pride and pleasure in making it to the final four in the competition: they were all such worthy finalists. Well done to HMP Maidstone and thank you to the RHS for its dedication to the competition over the last 30 years.”

Last year’s winner HMP Whatton in Nottinghamshire was judged runner-up, with HMP Kirkham in Lancashire and HMP Isle of Wight receiving third and fourth places.

HMP Maidstone is a Category ‘C’ prison that works to challenge offending behaviour and reduce re-offending by providing safe, decent and constructive activities for the inmates. Maidstone Prison works in partnership with the Home Office Immigration Enforcement Team dealing with Foreign National Offenders (FNO) with between 3 & 27 months to serve.

- Ends -


Notes to editors

For more information, please contact Erin O’Connor in the RHS Press Office on 020 7821 3060 or email

About The Windlesham Trophy

Lord Windlesham, then Chairman of the Parole Board and also a former Minister of State at the Home Office, proposed an award scheme for the best-kept prison garden in England and Wales in 1983.

During the course of his visits to prisons he had “become increasingly conscious of the value to prisoners of devoting part of their time and energies to gardening”. He suggested that an annual awards scheme would:

• give this interest added impetus;
• recognise the effort put in; and
• reinforce the sense of achievement and satisfaction obtained by prisoners from seeing the results of their work brightening up their environment.

The help of the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) was enlisted through Lord Windlesham’s contacts with the Society.

Home Office officials, Lord Windlesham and the RHS agreed the formula and judging criteria for the competition, provisionally entitled “The Prison Gardens Scheme”. The name “The Windlesham Trophy” was decided following Lord Windlesham’s presentation of the trophy – a highly polished brass bell from an old “Green Goddess” fire engine, suitably engraved and mounted on an oak plinth. The competition is strongly felt to be of benefit both to prisoners, as originally envisaged by Lord Windlesham, and also to encourage and motivate staff.

The first competition was held in 1984 and has been keenly contested by many entrants in subsequent years.

About the RHS
The Royal Horticultural Society was founded in 1804 by Sir Joseph Banks and John Wedgwood for the encouragement and improvement of the science, art and practice of horticulture. 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.

Today the RHS is committed to providing a voice for all gardeners. We are driven by a simple love of plants and a belief that gardeners make the world a better place. 210 years on we continue to safeguard and advance the science, art and practice of horticulture, creating displays that inspire people to garden. In all aspects of our work we help gardeners develop by sharing our knowledge of plants, gardens and the environment.

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

RHS Registered Charity No. 222879/SC038262