Wight in Bloom 2023 winners brightening up the Isle of Wight
It is the Isle of Wight’s largest competition of its kind and this year’s winners of Wight in Bloom have been revealed.
Organised by Visit Isle of Wight, Wight in Bloom is the Island-wide competition to discover the green-fingered talents of residents and businesses who go above and beyond to help the Island cement its reputation as ‘the Garden Isle’ and looking colourful for its many visitors.
In a ceremony at Albert Cottage on Friday (21 July), Wight in Bloom patron and TV favourite Alan Titchmarsh, together with Visit Isle of Wight Managing Director Will Myles, presented awards to winners in a number of categories, including Best Small Front Garden, Best Large Tourist Attraction Garden, Best Young People Initiative, the Patron’s Award and the Peggy Jarman Trophy for Overall Winner.
This year winners were awarded a £30 Isle of Wight Gift card and the overall winner of the Peggy Jarman Trophy will also win mentoring from CAR gardens worth a few hundred pounds.
Lucas Richards aged 16 from Nettlestone, amazed judges with his hard work, taking home the Best Young People Initiative award and the Peggy Jarman Trophy as the Overall winner.
Judges commented that it was ‘an inspiring and varied garden with a strong design theme which demonstrates what can be achieved by thoughtful planting in a fairly small space. A good mix of plants including annual, perennial and floral and edible, both ornamental and wildlife friendly.’
‘I was born into gardening, so I’ve been doing my whole life and that’s been provoked by my family, my family’s been gardening for their, whole lives, so it only seems right for me to continue their legacy.
‘Gardening is very therapeutic, so when you’re stressed you just go out to the garden, you know, just do a couple chores around and it really gets to stress off your head and also it’s just so relaxing. I would love to make a career, but I see more of it as a hobby now, a very relaxing hobby!’
Head judge, Mike Fitt OBE, organised training for the volunteer judges, which had proved invaluable:
‘We invited the chairman of London in Bloom down, who’s also involved with South East in Bloom, to run a training session here at Albert Cottage and it was a real good buzz, because we were learning things from the north island, which was good, but we learned that we’re doing a lot of things right. It was good to see how other people are doing it in other regions and I think the judges learned a lot from it because there are a lot of questions and a lot of ideas. It really made you feel that Wight in Bloom was going places.’
Farringford Estate were winners of the Patrons Award, with judges commenting that ‘the garden is sympathetic to the history of the site and makes a nod to the writer that lived here’ and that ‘the garden has a huge range of plants and the way the colour is spread across the garden was inspiring.’
Farringford Estate at Freshwater Bay, the home of famed Poet Alfred, Lord Tennyson are the first time winners of the Wight in Bloom Patrons Award.
Joint head gardener Ellen Penstone-Smith said:
‘It’s just amazing to be recognized by someone like Alan [Titchmarsh] for all the hard work that we’ve put in over the six years. Farringford really a small team of us, my husband and I started it, basically from scratch, we were digging the earth together, wondering what the hell we’ve done leaving our jobs and coming to the Island and starting this garden on a very exposed site.
‘It’s so lovely actually that there are so many beautiful gardens on the Island, and I think that horticulture is really improving in recent years on the Isle of Wight, Osborne is an amazing garden, as is Mottistone of course, and there’s so many great private gardens.’
Ellen described the ethos behind the garden at Farringford:
‘It’s a careless ordered garden on the ridge of a noble Down, to quote Tennyson, and I think we’ve captured that essence, it’s very wild, loose, free, it’s got the most stunning views and borrowed landscape. It’s a new garden but it’s definitely one worth visiting, just for the pure sight and sense of the garden and also it’s historical importance really. It’s an amazing project, the restoration of Farringford a whole.’
Alan Titchmarsh MBE said:
‘It seems to grow literally for Wight in Bloom, it would grow, wouldn’t it, and does grow year on year, the enthusiasm is wonderful, the age range is tremendous. We’ve always been known as the Garden Isle, in a way over the past few years, it’s sort of emphasised that. We’ve always got trying conditions, there’s always something that’s happens in the year that slows you down, we had a chilly winter spell in December and then it’s been very dry and it was very hot and we were all desperate for rain, and so it’s always a struggle but it’s interesting. The Isle of Wight gardeners always come up trumps and they end up with gardens, whether they’re large, small or around commercial premises, or hospitals, or whatever, that lift the spirits and that prove how important gardens are to our well-being.’
Alan said that the growth in interest in gardening has seen a resurgence:
‘Certainly during COVID, everybody realised the importance of that bit of land, if they had a bit that was attached to their house or their local park or whatever, people have really become aware in recent years about how important a piece of land is environmentally, from a wildlife point of view from sustaining all kinds of creatures that share our gardens with us but also you know we have a right to be there as well, and mental health has been hugely improved by a piece of land outside. I left school at 15 to be a gardener because I learned very early on that it was the most wonderful thing to do. I’ve never regretted it, and gardening has become more important to me over the years, not less and to see other people share that enthusiasm and that passion and do their bit is wonderfully rewarding.’
Alan commented on the Overall Winner, Lucas Richards:
‘Lucas won an award last year and when I saw him last year, he gave me a photograph of me and him when I presented him with his first award when he was a young school boy. He gave me this photo and I have a boat house in my house on the Isle of Wight where I write up there, there’s a table in the corner and that photo is on there. For someone like me, life is and has been for the last 50 years or so, a kind of evangelical thing, trying to get other people interested, particularly the young and say, this is the most wonderful and the most important thing to do, grow things. To watch, Lucas come through and this year when the Peggy Jarmen Trophy, it was actually quite emotional moment for me, having watched him come all the way through and still enjoying and feeling that passion and enthusiasm that you felt even when he was young. When it sticks and it stays, it’s something very special, a love of gardens and things that grow.’
Will Myles said:
‘Wight in Bloom is so important for the island, our visitors, who come here, get the chance to see the best of the horticulture, the plants, the flora and fauna of this island which has made it the UK’s garden isle.’
Bob Seely, MP for the Isle of Wight said:
‘It is one of my favourite events on the island, and it’s a fantastic event, and celebrate so much that’s wonderful about the island. The beautiful gardens beautiful nature. And the fact that people have such enjoyment from it.’
All shortlisted entrants and winners were awarded a unique certificate sponsored by Hovertravel, designed and created by local artist ‘ByMrsM’ with upcycled rubber from an old hovercraft skirt.
Pat Sowerbutts is the Partnership and Developments manager for Hovertravel:
‘Through our HoverGreen range and working with ByMrsM, we’ve repurposed our skirts to create souvenirs, coasters and bookmarks actually repurposing that and for the winners of tonight the get a certificate which is made out of complete hovercraft skirt and the design work is from ByMrsM.
‘It’s all about sustainability and actually through our HoverGreen initiatives internally, we know that the skirt rubber can be repurposed for other uses. And actually, instead of it going to perhaps landfill or to waste actually how can we repurpose that to save the environment and to be more sustainable as a business as well.
‘This year the standard of entries is phenomenal. I mean actually this being our first year, we didn’t really truly appreciate the people that have been nominated in these awards. So, even the ones that aren’t fortunate to be winners tonight, it should really pat themselves on the back for the work that they do for the Island.’
‘ByMrsM’ website: https://bymrsm.com/
Visit Isle of Wight web page with winners: https://www.visitisleofwight.co.uk/explore/wight-in-bloom
Best Small Front Garden
Best Large Front Garden
Best Small Tourist Attraction Garden
Best Large Tourist Attraction Garden
Best Commercial Garden
Pride of Place Floral Project
Best Young People Initiative
Best Edible Garden
Best Container Garden
Best Care Giving Complex Garden
Peggy Jarman Award for Overall Winner