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 Simon Mabury, 52 from Leeds, landing the Eccentric Gardener of the Year award and with it, £1,000 in prize money.
Mabury won the award for his jungle-themed garden in Leeds after he took up the pastime in 2020 during lockdown, who alongside his husband decided to spruce up their small 7x5m garden in a bid to recreate that holiday feeling they missed so much.
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.
Mabury said: "I suffered from mental health and loved my holidays. If I go on holiday and don't see a palm tree, then I'm not on holiday. So, I wanted a space that I could go out in and lose myself. I wanted that escapism that I walk out there and not think I'm in Leeds. And for my mental health it's been immense, and it's been a tonic really.
"Quite a few people said to us that we could win a competition with this, but we thought our garden was too small and you get that self-doubt. So, to win it was quite a shock for me because I have low self-confidence. And to win a competition for something we've created was amazing.
"Every time I look out now, instead of just seeing my garden I think 'oh I've got an award-winning garden."
Mabury's garden is a tropical getaway filled with palm trees, lush green spaces, a waterfall and even accompanying monkey calls every now and then. The self-employed graphic designer won the B&Q Gardener of the Year 'Eccentric' award for its extravagance and beauty that makes the most of a small space.
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.
Mabury continued: "We had holidayed many times in places like Thailand and Vietnam and we loved that jungle-like, green foliage look and that's what we wanted to recreate. We looked at the garden and thought how we could make it more interesting. So, we created a wooden walkway and we zigzagged that across the garden. The idea was that you couldn't see the back of the garden which created that little bit of mystery.
"My favourite part is probably midway; we've got a waterfall there and I think you've got to have water in a garden. And I think the sound of water, especially from a waterfall, just completely soothes you.”
Mabury encouraged others to get out and spruce up their gardens this summer, highlighting the happiness it can emulate. He demonstrated how anyone can create an enjoyable garden, no matter the space or plants available, you just need to try.
He said: “For me, there’s so many stresses and strains in the world now and so much bad news that I just think that anybody who needs that escapism should create a garden. And the key is, and one of the things that we wanted to try and get across, was that you don't need a massive garden.
"I've got friends who have got gardens like football stadiums, and they don't know what to do with them, they're just full of grass. I just think, whatever you've got there. If it's a balcony, a small garden or massive garden, make it your own. The world's your oyster and there are no limits. You don't have to think I can't grow that in the UK, my advice would be to try it."
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.”