Thirty years after the tentative beginnings of the Young Horticulturist of the Year competition (YHoY), the Chartered Institute of Horticulture (CIH) has launched the 2015 competition. This prestigious annual competition attracts over 1,800 entrants each year and gives young horticulturists from the UK and Ireland the opportunity to compete for the Percy Thrower Travel Bursary worth £2,000 which is generously provided by the Shropshire Horticultural Society.
For young horticulturists, who will be under the age of 30 by 31 July 2015, now is the time to take part in the first stage of the competition by entering one of the many YHoY heats taking place around the UK and Ireland. The heats are open to students of horticulture and young horticultural professionals working in the industry and there are three ways of taking part: attend one of the heats taking place in colleges and venues throughout the Institute's eight branches: at a workplace with a Chartered Institute of Horticulture approved supervisor and via SKYPE. The closing date for entries is 10 February 2015.
The £2,000 Percy Thrower Travel Bursary, provided by the Shropshire Horticultural Society, enables the competition winner to undertake a trip, anywhere in the world, to study a subject related to their chosen field of horticulture. With prizes at every stage of the competition, competitors have a number of chances to get cash rewards for their efforts, plus there are lots of opportunities to meet and network with other young horticulturists along the way. Taking part is fun as well as something which enhances career prospects and aspirations.
The competition is run in three phases: local heats, regional finals and the Grand Final, with questions covering a wide range of horticultural subjects. To have a go and test your knowledge there are some sample questions from previous competitions on the Institute's website:
Heat winners go forward to one of eight regional finals, and the winner of each regional final will progress to the Grand Final on 9 May at the National Trust's Barrington Court in Somerset.
Andrew Gill, President of the Chartered Institute of Horticulture said "As the YHoY competition grows each year it goes from strength to strength, with more heats and more contestants. I am always amazed and impressed at their horticultural knowledge. There are no losers in this competition as the contestants all get the chance to network with their peers and to broaden their horizons, the audiences are entertained and the hosts of the heats and finals make a real contribution to developing young horticulturists. There is nothing more important to the Chartered Institute of Horticulture than supporting and encouraging the professional horticulturists of the future and I am sure that when Chris Parsons (overall winner 2014) returns from his travels he will come back to a bright future in this most diverse of professions.'"
The 2014 YHoY winner Chris Parsons, a self-employed gardener, said "I'd recommend that anyone (of the right age) working in or studying horticulture should compete in YHoY. During the years I entered I've met some great kindred spirits and have become more involved with the Chartered Institute of Horticulture. I'm hoping to use my bursary to fund a trip to Taiwan to see its unique flora"
The 2012 YHoY winner Douglas Mackay, now Assistant Planning Manager at S&A Produce and Honorary Secretary of the Chartered Institute of Horticulture said "Even though I was working/studying in horticulture, it was participating in the YHoY competition that made me feel a part of the much larger picture! It was always amazing fun, was a great talking point in my job interviews and has catapulted me into all sorts of amazing opportunities just by taking part! Don't be nervous about entering (fourth time was the charm for me!) and you'll learn so much that participating really is a crucial part of being a horticulturist!"
Suzanne Moss, 2011 YHoY winner, now the South East Branch Representative on Council of the Chartered Institute of Horticulture and RHS Skills Development Officer said "The need for knowledge and skill in horticulture has never been more high profile than now. The focus on the skills gap and encouraging others into horticultural careers means that the Young Horticulturist of the Year competition is more vital than ever. It showcases the incredible knowledge needed to become successful in our industry and is becoming increasingly high profile. Being a part of the competition is great fun and invaluable to your career. So many opportunities opened up to me after winning the competition, I would encourage anyone to enter!"
The coming year promises to be a bumper one for the Institute with a YHoY Champion of Champions competition planned for 2015. The Champion of Champions will include YHoY winners from previous years coming together for the first time to take part in a nail-biting challenge based on a similar format to the BBC's Question of Sport.
To find out more about the 2015 YHoY competition and how to take part visit www.horticulture.org.uk.