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 Birmingham-based teacher called Kim Perry landing the Productive Gardener of the Year award and with it, £1,000 in prize money.
Perry turned her garden into a holiday at home and has been nationally recognised thanks to her haven that focuses on wildlife, holidays and vegetables. Perry’s love for gardening ignited seven years ago after meeting her partner, and now it has become a labour of love as the pair seek to bring holidays to Birmingham now that travelling has become more difficult for the couple.
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.
“I am so over the moon,” beamed Perry. “I’ve never won anything in my entire life. We think the garden is good and our friends and family come and go ‘wow it looks lovely’; but to have somebody else recognise it, I can’t believe it. A professional person has seen that we’ve done a really good job, it means a lot to us.”
Perry initially maintained the garden after moving in nearly 20 years ago but has now transformed the space into a haven where she is able to relax from the stresses of modern life. Despite having no prior gardening experience, Perry says she has created an escape that is reflective of all things the couple enjoy.
“It’s totally organically developed,” added Perry. “We both have no experience, it’s trial and error. It’s got everything we like. We love travel and holidays, so we’ve got pieces inspired by that. It’s never been a piece of paper with a plan on it.
“Everything in it has got a story, everything reminds us of something or brings something to the garden. We’re constantly fiddling around, moving things, and trying to make things better. There’s been some plant deaths along the way but when it works, it’s the joy you get and people coming round and going ‘wow’. We just love our garden; it’s become our addiction.”
Perry has based her garden around the couple’s love of wildlife and travel, and now that travel has become more difficult for them, the world has come to their Birmingham backyard.
She said: “We’re both massively into nature, wildlife, and animals so it’s so good to feel that you’re helping them. We love holidays, it hasn’t been as easy to get away, so we’ve made our garden feel like you’re on holiday. We’ve got lots of tropical things, we’ve got our own tiki bar.”
The garden has also taken on an even more important role for Perry, as the couple look after an elderly parent with dementia. For the Birmingham pair, the garden has become an invaluable place to get some respite.
“It’s really hard to express what it’s done for us,” said Perry. “We can just relax and forget the stresses of work and caring for an elderly parent with dementia. It’s somewhere you can relax and rest. Getting out with nature, you just get so much joy. You’re achieving something that’s giving you great pleasure, that you can be proud of.”
“I’d recommend it to everyone; it’s really changed our lives.”
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.
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!”