Gardening continues to motivate, inspire, and entertain millions of Britons.
From inner cities to leafy suburbs, small patches to wide open spaces, and community projects to individual plots, gardening is something that brings Britain together. Now in its 11th marvellous year, Cultivation Street continues to draw inspiration and encouragement from across the UK.
There were thousands of entries into the 2023 competition and it is encouraging to see so many people who want to get outside and get gardening.
This year’s campaign, sponsored by Miracle-Gro® and supported by the Daily Express, has been as inspiring as ever especially given the cost-of-living crisis and global uncertainty, proving yet again that gardening remains a tonic during the toughest of times.
Proof, as ever, that getting outside really can help banish the blues and provide something everyone can enjoy.
Simon Sadinsky, of The King’s Foundation, a charity that has been involved in Cultivation Street for several years, said: “It was wonderful to see the breadth of exciting initiatives across the UK and we congratulate all those who have worked hard to bring them to life.”
Fran Barnes of the Horticultural Trades Association added: “All the entries demonstrated what a positive impact gardening and horticulture can have on communities.
“They showcased the many benefits that green spaces provide for health and wellbeing as well as for the environment.”
Today I’m delighted to share the winners of this year’s competition – and I hope you’ll find inspiration among their moving stories.
Best Community Garden
This award is aimed at incredible community projects making their local area a greener and better place to live for everyone.
Winner: Dorothy Parkes Centre, Smethwick, West Midlands:
IN 2018, The Dorothy Parkes Centre took on a disused allotment which had become a dangerous, dilapidated dumping ground. Since then, volunteers have transformed the space into an award-winning, safe, and accessible community allotment with the support of the National Lottery, Postcode Lottery and West Midlands Combined Authority.
The plot is managed by two part-time members of staff and supported by an average of 10 to 15 volunteers each week. The space includes a large community classroom, greenhouses, polytunnels and 16 growing beds. And fresh veg and other produce grown at the site is distributed locally via lunch clubs and food banks. More than 150 families have enjoyed free Nature Buddies sessions and visits from local primary schools have helped 138 pupils learn about nature. Dorothy Parkes CEO Robert Bruce said: “This is absolutely amazing news and a big boost for our organisation during challenging times. The team are all delighted and the £1,000 will go a long way in helping us bring some of our exciting and ambitious plans to fruition. It should also be a boost for Smethwick and our surrounding areas as we don’t often get too many good news stories like this.”
David Domoney added: “Dorothy Parkes was an inspirational story of how a community has turned an unloved space into a veritable oasis. Despite some fierce competition, they were a worthy winner and it’s fantastic to support them.”
Second place, winning £500, was Ahimsa Allotment Community Garden in Leeds;
Third place goes to Noah’s Ark Children’s Venture in Eastleach, Cirencester, which wins £250;
Lost The Plot in Kent and Saffron Acres in Leicester were both highly commended, each winning a Miracle-Gro® Hamper.
Best School Garden
This award goes to the school that has best-involved children in creating an inspirational garden. Between edible, ornamental, new, or established school gardens, there were some fantastic entries for the judges to choose from.
Winner: Selkirk High School in Selkirk, Scotland: £1,000
Selkirk School’s garden has existed for several years but, with the need for outdoor learning spaces during the pandemic, it was super-boosted. Since then, pupils have been taking their experience and expertise out into the community, planting more than 1,000 trees and landscaping the local tennis club. Its outdoor classroom boasts picnic benches, mixed native hedgerows, wildflowers, bird feeders, and ten fruit trees as well as a living willow arbour.
Polytunnels grow aubergine, carrots, cucumbers, tomatoes, radish, and spring onions, while soft fruit cages feature raspberries, blackcurrant, loganberry and purple gooseberry. Produce is donated to local charity run cafés who use it to make tasty meals. There is also a beekeeping club, and the school produces its own honey and candles from the wax. Student Callum Mann, 15, said: “I spend all of my time in the horticulture department because I struggle with school because of my autism. I enjoy gardening and being able to work outdoors and want to be a farmer. “I feel relaxed and happy when I am gardening, and I have grown in confidence. I can talk to members of the public about what we grow. I sell produce and flowering plants and help look after the school chickens.”
David added: “The judges agreed Selkirk was a brilliant example of a thriving school garden which benefits not just pupils but the wider community too.”
In second place, receiving £500 was the Living Classroom at Mile Oak Primary School in Brighton, East Sussex;
Third place and £250 went to Chaucer Junior School’s Gardening Club in Ilkeston, Derbyshire;
- Bengeo Primary School in Hertford, Herts;
- Nields Junior, Infant & Nursery School in Slaithwaite, Huddersfield; and
- St Margaret’s Primary School in Yeovil, Somerset,
were all runners-up, each receiving a Miracle-Gro® Hamper.
Gardens for Better Health
The award goes to the project or group that is having the most positive impact on the mental or physical health of its local community.
Winner: Enable Glasgow Fortune Works, Drumchapel, Glasgow: £1,000
Enable Glasgow Fortune Works’ social enterprise aims to empower people with learning disabilities to get the most from life. The team has been using garden therapy for many years, with its award-winning garden centre providing opportunities for 50 people every week.
It also has nine contracts around Glasgow helping with engagement and teaching transferable skills. A community allotment site includes plots to teach about planting, diet, seasonal eating, and health and well-being with a real seed-to-peel ethos. They work with local schools, nurseries, and youth groups to foster a better understanding of nature, biodiversity, and climate, as well as transferable skills.
Social Enterprise Coordinator Jason Methven said: “Our Garden Centre is staffed by adults with disabilities, and being a part of Cultivation Street has helped raise our profile, especially for all the work we do encouraging adults with disabilities to gain new skills and raising awareness of disabilities.
“We also love to share self-sustainability methods, including our wormery, we use the byproducts from, plus bird cameras and pollinator corridors to help our garden to share the love for our community, and the nature that lives within the space.”
David said: “Fortune Works is an amazing social enterprise whose efforts are felt far and wide in Glasgow. It’s incredible to see so many people benefitting.”
Second place, receiving £500 was the Secret Sensory Garden for the Blind in Romford;
Third place and £250 went to St Mark’s School in Brighton, East Sussex;
Three highly commended, each receiving a Miracle-Gro® Hamper, were:
- Growing Hope Garden at Milton Mount Primary School, in Crawley, West Sussex;
- Horticultural Centre at St Piers School and College, Lingfield, Surrey; and
- Lister Community Green in Liverpool.
Gro Your Best
THIS sponsor’s category sees community and school gardens gifted a bag of Miracle-Gro® Peat Free All-Purpose compost. The community or school then uses the compost to grow their best, be it fruit, veg or flowers.
Winner: Tribe Youth Group, Leeds: Miracle-Gro® products
What started as a project to tidy up the area four years ago has turned into a community garden. This space has encouraged the community, and especially its young people, to come together to produce a little piece of wildlife within a large housing estate. Despite theft and vandalism, the Eco Club’s hard work and determination have been inspirational.
Jean Barnbrook of the group said: “The garden has offered hands-on experiences with a living classroom where youngsters participate in the entire process of plant growth, from planting to harvesting, as well as providing an opportunity to learn about being healthy. It’s a focal point for socialising and community engagement.”
David said: “Another truly inspirational local project and a deserved winner.”
- Public choice, receiving £200, was The Sound of Nature by St Albans CE Primary School, Hants.
Garden Centre of the Year
This category recognises the work garden centres do in their local communities and with school gardens up and down the country and celebrates their inspirational staff.
This year’s award was shared by:
- Alton Garden Centre, Wickford, Essex;
- Autism Together’s Bromborough Pool Garden Centre, near Port Sunlight, The Wirral;
- British Garden Centres nationally;
- Coleman’s Garden Centre, Ballyclare, Northern Ireland;
- Old Railway Line Garden Centre, Brecon; and
- Sunshine Garden Centre in Bounds Green, London,
each receiving £100.