The pandemic and subsequent lockdown has led to Britain identifying a new wave of gardening enthusiasts who have used their green spaces as a form of self-care and escapism.
After over 1,500 entries; the B&Q Gardener of the Year competition has revealed its winners, with a public sector worker from Leicestershire, called Andrew Spray, landing the Year-Round gardener of the year award and with it, £1,000 in prize money.
Spray, 52, has been recognised for his urban garden, inspired by scenic countryside landscapes, after initially taking it up as a casual hobby.
The competition, which launched in April this year, sought to celebrate all types of gardeners with four categories; the Classic Gardener, who appreciates the importance of time, care and attention when building the outdoor space. The Year-Round Gardener whose garden thrives no matter the season. The Productive Gardener who makes sure their outdoor space works as hard as they do, and the Eccentric Gardener who doesn’t follow the rules and always embraces the unexpected.
Across all categories, gardeners were commended for their use of sustainable practices, for example by using peat-free compost, as well as showcasing how they have encouraged and allowed nature to thrive in their outdoor space.
"Basically, there is something visually there throughout all four seasons,” said Spray. "It just gets you outside. You have a look at it and tend to it. You can't do that much in the winter, to be honest, but it just gets you out and provides a bit of exercise.
"You can keep on top of everything, and you can trim everything back as well in the early winter. Especially if you have got quite a large patio area, you can still go and sit in the garden even though it’s not summer and there is still something there for you to look at. It's not like everything has died off, especially if it is dry and sunny in the winter. It can still be visually stimulating. I have things like Conifers and Eucalyptus that are all evergreen, so they look great throughout the year."
The competition judges were made up of GBBO judge and gardening enthusiast Dame Prue Leith, B&Q Outdoor Category Director, Steve Guy, and award-winning garden designers, Matt Childs and Humaira Ikram.
Spray added: "It was fantastic to be recognised. I am delighted to finish top of the Year-Round competition, and of course, the recognition has left me delighted. Gardening has physical benefits in terms of keeping fit, and I guess we are in a position now where young people are not as active as the older generation were when they were the same age. So, there are physical benefits, but then there is also the mental wellbeing aspect of it as well."
Jez Young, a construction worker from Ceredigion, Wales was crowned overall winner at a ceremony attended by the judging panel including Prue Leith and received £10,000 in prize money, alongside a £2,500 gift card for B&Q and the coveted Golden Trowel trophy.
Steve Guy, B&Q Outdoor Category Director says: “At B&Q, we cater to every gardening need by having a great range of quality plants to enable people like Jez to create amazing outdoor spaces. We loved the sustainable practices that he used and how innovative he has been with the structure and layout, alongside working with his garden to understand how the foliage works with his soil type. This is our second year of B&Q Gardener of the Year and we again couldn’t believe the quality of entries coming through. Each entry demonstrated the British passion for gardening and our winning garden from Jez is a great example of learning to love your garden and growing alongside it. Congratulations Jez!”
Judge Dame Prue Leith commented: “I found the judging really hard. There was such a wealth of creativity and good design, not to say passion bordering on obsession. We Brits do love our gardens! But the outright winner, chosen by all the judges, was Jez. You’d want to be out in that garden at any time of year.”