10 May 2023

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The months are speeding on, and I cannot quite believe that we are in May already. It has been a month so far that has not seen too much sun and been extremely wet along with it. The plants are a little late flowering this year compared with other years, in particular the Wisterias throughout the college. They will catch up but just need a little more prolonged sunshine. On the plus side, everywhere looks very lush and green.

For the last few weeks, the garden team have concentrated their efforts on the main college site. It needed to look immaculate as we welcomed the prestige horticultural community through our doors at Emmanuel. It was with great pleasure that on 6th May (the same day as the Coronation), Emmanuel College hosted one of the most important events in the horticultural calendar. The Grand Final of the Young Horticulturist of the Year Competition attracts the highest level of young talent, all testing their horticultural knowledge to the maximum under tense conditions to try and win the title of Young Horticulturist of the Year and to win £2500 of travel bursaries to travel the world and further their horticultural knowledge even further.


                                                                     Above: Visitors arrive for the Grand Final

This is a competition that Emmanuel has had recent success in before, with Emma staff being in the final both regionally and nationally. The securing of the Grand Final was something I was very pleased we could do. It was twelve months in the planning and lots and lots of hard work, with emails and logistics as the contestants who represented their regions came from all over the British Isles. Many thanks to the College board for allowing us to hold such a prestigious competition here but also many thanks to Conference manager Harriet Carey and her team for all the hard work.


                                                                            Above: The event is introduced

The event was very successful and received many great plaudits from some highly respected horticultural leaders within the profession. The grounds wowed the visitors and certainly spread the positive word about how great the college is and its beautiful surrounding buildings, with people in awe of its history.

As for the competition itself, it was a close-run final with the eventual winner, Lewis Barrett, representing the South East Region. Lewis currently works at the Royal Botanic Gardens in Kew and only won by three points on the day. Emmanuel College's former employee and Eastern region representative, Jon Strauss, finished in a respectable sixth position. This is still a huge achievement, and we are still very proud of Jon. Other contestants representing the other regions came from establishments such as the Botanical gardens in Scotland and Ireland.


                                                                              Above: Lewis Barrett, 2023 Winner

As host, I had the task of being Question Master. This certainly tested my horticultural knowledge too as the audience was filled with lecturers, Botanic Garden curators, Horticultural journalists and authors, Head Gardeners and Horticultural Consultants. I think overall we did Emmanuel College proud and certainly have put Emmanuel College on the horticultural map, even more than it already is.


                                                       Above: The Head Gardener assumes the role of Question Master

As part of the day, Assistant Head Gardener, Theo Giasemidis, and I gave tours of the gardens, with our Master, Doug Chalmers, also chatting to the delegates and visitors.


                                                                    Above: Visitors are given a tour of the gardens

The rest of May looks busy as we catch up on the offsite properties and turn our attention to preparing the grounds for the Emma May Ball event and graduation. We are just praying for some sunshine.

Best wishes.

Brendon Sims, Head Gardener

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