New Young Horticulturist of the Year

The 2017 Young Horticulturist of the Year is Scotland’s Lachlan Rae!Displaying

This year’s Young Horticulturist of the Year competition came to an exciting end on May 6th at University Centre Shrewsbury where the final 8 competitors fought for the opportunity to travel anywhere in the world with a £2,500 bursary. The bursary is provided in honour of Percy Thrower, Britain’s first celebrity gardener, known for his work with the BBC on Gardeners world and Blue Peter. This year’s competition received over 2,500 entries from young horticulturists under the age of 30 from all over the UK and Ireland.

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The day began with a series of plant identification rounds which proved to have an enormous impact on the scoreboards later in the competition. An audience of over 70 people arrived to support the final 8 contestants, including headline sponsors Peter Hunt from MorePeople, Raoul Curtis-Machin from the Horticultural Trades Association, and more than 20 members of the Shropshire Horticultural Society including Percy Throwers three daughters. Also in attendance was Nick Smith, Show Director of the Harrogate Flower Shows – the next location for the 2018 competition.

2012 YHOY winner, Douglas Mackay said “They hid their nerves much better than I remember managing to and it was so closely-fought! The day had a great buzz and you feel so energised by all that horticultural knowledge.”

Peter Hunt, Raoul Curtis-Machin, Owen Doyle, James Hodgson

The competition itself began just after 11:00 and after the first few rounds Lachlan was already in the lead, closely followed by Fern with just one point between them. But after the points from the mornings identification rounds were added into the mix, we saw Josh rise to first place with Julia and Lachlan following in close behind. Going into the final round there were 20 quick fire questions with 40 points up for grabs. Fern started in the lead, but very quickly Lachlan showed his abilities taking away 17 points and allowing him to take first place. Competition organiser Susan Nicholas said she had never seen such a tight competition with only 5 points between first and second place.


Lachlan Rae
Auchendolly Estate

Fern Champney
Writtle College

Josh Egan-Wyer
West Midlands and South Wales
Pershore College

Julia Andersson
South East
Royal Botanic Gardens Kew

Matthew Brewer
RHS Gardens Harlow Carr

Nathan Foulds
North West & North Wales
Reaseheath College

Peter Adams
South West
RHS Rosemoor

Egle Zinkute
National Botanical Gardens Dublin

Matthew Brewer, Peter Adams, Josh Egan-Wyer, Julia Andersson, Bryan Howard, Fern Champney, Lachlan Rae, Egle Zinkute, Nathan Foulds.

After the final round, we heard an inspiring speech from James Hodgson, one of the founding trustees of the Percy Thrower Trust. The prizes were then due to be presented by SHS Chairman, Richard Whittingham, however Richard thought it would be more fitting to have Percy Throwers’ three daughters present the certificates, so Margaret Thrower, Ann Kirkham and Sue Jones took to the stage.

As well as their certificates, each finalist received a collage of one of Percy Throwers horticultural projects -the dingle,  a book and free membership to both the CIH and Plant network. Lachlan Rae now has his opportunity to plan how he will spend his £2,500 during his extended visit to Australia and possibly Tasmania. Fern goes home with £950 and Josh with £550 while the rest of the runners up all receive £200, all to be used in any way they wish.

The competition was covered by BBC Shropshire’s Paul Shutterworth. After the competition when asked where he would like to see himself in the future, Lachlan replied ‘Looking forward towards the future I could quite happily see myself in a television gardening role’ It would be fantastic to see Lachlan following in the footsteps of Percy Thrower, taking inspiration from Britain’s first celebrity gardener.



Lachlan & Owen


All finalists

You can find more photos here 

Editor’s notes

The competition
This annual competition is organised by the Chartered Institute of Horticulture, the only professional body representing all aspects of horticulture. The Institute founded the Young Horticulturist of the Year competition in 1990 as a way of encouraging and rewarding excellence among those starting out in a career in horticulture and today around 2000 young people under the age of 30 participate each year.
The 2017 competition was free to enter and is open to any horticulturist who is below the age of 30 on31 July 2017.

The competition is run in three phases: heats which take place in January and February, followed by eight Regional Finals held in March and the Grand Final in May.

Heats are based on multi-choice questions covering a wide range of horticultural topics. The heats are organised by eight CIH Regional Organisers and take place at colleges, garden centres and anywhere else where competitors may gather.

For more information, and to have a trial run at some previous heat questions, visit
Heat winners go forward to one of eight Regional Finals held in March, when a Question Master asks a wide range of horticultural questions, some through a buzzer round, and some directed to individual contestants. In addition, there are two identification rounds to further test their depth and breadth of knowledge on a range of plants as well as pests, diseases, disorders and weeds.
The winner of each Regional Final progresses to the Grand Final where the format is the same as for the Regional Finals with questions covering all sectors of horticulture.

The winner of the Grand Final receives the £2,500 Percy Thrower Travel Bursary, provided by the Shropshire Horticultural Society, Percy Thrower Trust.  This funds a horticultural trip anywhere in the world.