While the country starts to lift lockdown restrictions and normality is firmly on the horizon, many of the nation come out of it with a newfound passion for gardening.
A select group of gardeners have been recognised nationally for their green-fingered efforts during lockdown and have won a prestigious competition.
Around 80 per cent of Brits have become more interested in tending to their window boxes, patios, balconies, and green spaces in the last year, and thanks to B&Q’s Gardener of the Year competition, many have been able to show off their newfound skills.
Rookie gardener Kevin Thorne collected the Grow your Own category in the B&Q Gardener of the Year awards due to his impressive vegetable patch at his home in Bottisham, Cambridge, which he created with the help of his partner Rosie and has won £1,000 from B&Q after beating off thousands of entries.
Brickmakers Wood in Ipswich, with the help of many volunteers over the lockdown, have landed the B&Q Community Garden of the Year golden trowel, Diane Crimes collected the prize for the Best Use of Colour at the B&Q Gardener of the Year awards, Chef Simon Thornewill won the Best Use of Imagination category in the B&Q Gardener of the Year and Jane Clark collected the prize for Best Eco-friendly Garden in the B&Q Gardener of the Year awards.
B&Q has been joined by comedian Jim Moir on a mission to showcase the ‘real’ gardens of the UK, with the winner of the competition taking home £10,000.
Thorne, 31, said: “In all honestly, I actually came dancing and skipping down the stairs as I was so excited to have been chosen as a runner up!”
“It was pretty surreal; we just didn't believe it. We entered out of pure luck. We happened to be in B&Q in the garden centre, ironically looking for more garden plants!
“We're still very new to gardening so we never thought we'd win anything. It has just been fun and pleasurable to do and so it is just nice to share that with people as well.
“I think we're still trying to work out how we can bring more wildlife into the garden too. We recently added a little pond to try and bring in new insects and wildlife. It's nice to branch out and do things that don't just centre around the vegetable patch.”
Thorne, who works in accountancy, found his real passion for gardening over lockdown as an outlet of creative energy, and has been able to enjoy the extra time on his hands to put his green fingers to the test.
“The lockdown was a big turning point for us with gardening,” Thorne added.
“We had this patch, and when we weren't able to go out much, it was a good place to be and relax and turn into something more useable and creative.
“I think it's a good thing, this competition, because it brings more awareness to gardening and it makes people like us, who have done it for the first year, realise we've done something quite good.
“We entered something and have been able to be successful and win something, which we didn't think we would. We're going to have to up our game next year!”
Gardening has certainly been a refuge for many people who have struggled with the lockdown in the past year, and the competition comes as a relief to gardening enthusiasts who have missed out on the likes of the Chelsea Flower Show.
Joining Moir on the judges panel were award-winning garden designers, Matt Childs and Humaira Ikram, and B&Q Outdoor Category Director Steve Guy.
Guy said: "At B&Q, our mission is to cater for each of our customers individually by providing them with a great range of quality plants, enabling them to create amazing outside spaces. In launching the B&Q Gardener of the year competition, we sought to celebrate gardens of all shapes and sizes which is seen with all of our winners.”
Brits have taken inspiration for their gardens from many different places. 37% turned to gardening centres like B&Q for advice, while 27% asked their parents and 26% checking social media platforms as more young people tried their hand at gardening.
B&Q threw the rule book out the window when it came to what makes a garden ‘best in show’ – as proven by Thorne’s vegetable sanctuary.