A GARDENER from County Durham has proved his green credentials by beating off about 2,000 hopefuls to win the Young Horticulturist of the Year title.

Chris Parsons, 23, of Heighington, near Darlington, passed a series of rigorous tests to prove his gardening knowledge, including a University Challenge-style competition and multiple choice exams.

Mr Parsons, who studied horticulture at Houghall College in Durham, said he was “not at all” confident of winning the title as he was battling against university graduates.

Loading article content

He said: “I was up against people with university degrees in botany and that kind of thing so I thought "I have not got a chance to win this".

“But now it feels great.”

Mr Parsons said his passion for gardening bloomed in his late teens and he plans to use the £2,000 travel bursary award for winning the title to visit Taiwan or Vietnam and see their unique species of flora.

He said: “Some of the plants over there I would really like to look at, especially in the mountains.

“Then I’ll use my experiences of the trip to write a report for the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS).”

The title has also earned Mr Parsons a guest visit to the Chelsea Flower Show this Friday, courtesy of the RHS.

Mr Parsons now works as a self-employed gardener in the Darlington area but previously spent a year working on a placement at Kew Gardens in London.

One of the notable grounds Mr Parson’s currently tends to is Thornton Hall and Gardens on the outskirts of Darlington, which is holding an open day and plant sale on May 26.