The accolades for the gardens here at Chartwell keep on coming thick and fast at the moment. In recent weeks on this blog we have discussed the success of our vegetable and herb display for the 2012 RHS Chelsea Flower Show in conjunction with Alitex Greenhouses (see here for more information) and Tony’s achievement in being chosen to supply a series of bespoke wooden bowls for the 2012 National Trust Octavia Hill Awards (check out that blog post here). The third piece of good news concerns Rhiannon Harris, our 1st Year National Trust Academy trainee gardener. As part of her studies at Reaseheath College in Nantwich, she was entered into this year’s Young Horticulturalist of the Year process. This competition is run every year by The Institute of Horticulture here in the UK to find the most outstanding young people working in all sectors of the horticulture industry.
The initial heats of the competition were held at many horticultural colleges and institutions around the country in January and February. As the National Trust post their Careership and Academy trainees to study at Reaseheath College in Cheshire, Rhiannon entered the competition there. She won this stage of the compeition and went forward to represent Chartwell and the college at the North West regional finals in March. Rhiannon did extremely well once again and won those heats which meant that she was through to the Grand Final which was held at the Royal Botanical Garden Edinburgh last month! From around 2000 applicants, she was down to the last eight finalists. Here is her account of the day:
“Along with the other competitors I arrived at Edinburgh Botanic Garden at 9:30am to sign myself in. At around 10:30am, the competitors were taken into the lecture theatre where the event was to be held, and were given the opportunity to meet the question master and the adjudicator. We then took our seats at the front of the lecture theatre, where a long table had been laid out with name cards, light-up buzzers and the most enormous microphones I’ve ever seen (or perhaps the fear made them seem larger!) Behind us was a large screen, which would display the scores as we progressed through the various rounds of the competition. The guests then entered and took to their seats.
After a brief introduction, the competition kicked off at 11am with the first of 3 buzzer rounds, this one on general horticulture. As 2 points were awarded to each correct answer, 1 point for a partially-correct answer, it was important to answer as many of the 20 questions in this round as possible! Round number 2 was a round of directed questions, where the question master asked each competitor a question in turn, with 2 points for each correct answer. My question asked for the biological control used to treat glasshouse whitefly (which I got right, thankfully!). Round number 3 was the first of 3 identification rounds, this one a Plant Ident. 1 point each was awarded for Genus, Species and cultivar. Plants included Caltha palustris, Narcissus bulbocodium, Ribes sanguineum, Liriodendron tulipifera, Trillium ovatum, and Alnus glutinosa. The 4th round was a return to the buzzers while Round number 5 was the second directed question round. The 6th round was another identification round, this time a pest, disease and weed ident, which was probably my best round! The 7th round – another buzzer round – comprised of 4 odd-one-out questions while The 8th and 9th round were the last directed question round and identification round respectively, with the ident this time on gardening equipment (ranging from strimmer cord and spaghetti tubing to air pots!). The final round was all hands to the buzzers, with 20 questions left to go – then finally, after nearly 2 hours it was all over!
I managed 4th place and received £150 and a framed print as a prize. The winner was awarded a £2000 bursary for plant-related travel, whilst 2nd place was awarded a £1000 cheque. I was happy with 4th place – those who were awarded 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place had all been in the final in previous years, so experience seems to a big advantage. I’m young enough (just!) to have another crack at the competition next year, so may give it another go…”
We are obviously very proud of Rhiannon and her achievements during the Young Horticulturalist of the Year competition this year, so much so that we raised a glass of champagne to her during a tea break recently here at Chartwell! In fact, that sort of thing is starting to become a bit of a habit for us these days! And long may it continue!