Steve Purton of Dobbies at Milton Keynes has been named as the Cultivation Street Ambassador of the Year in David Domoney’s commmunity gardening campaign.
Cultivation Street is a national gardening campaign that supports community, school and individual garden projects with free gardening advice, newsletters, growing calendars, fund-raising tips and a national competition with cash prizes of more than £21,000.
The categories including Community Gardens, School Gardens, Small Spaces, Front Gardens, Colour Your Life (brand new category for 2018 the sponsor Calliope Geranium) – and the Ambassadors, a special category for garden centres who get involved with gardening in the community in all its forms.
The Ambassador award goes to the garden centre employee who has been the most engaged with their community, built relationships and developed new skills. “A Cultivation Street Ambassador should be somebody who has gardening knowledge, is passionate and has great customer service who is friendly and approachable to those that need advice who are part of the Cultivation Street network,” David says. Ambassadors should have immersed themselves in the campaign by assisting with entries and encouraging communities to share their stories and photos online.
Steve Burton’s success earned him a cash prize of £1,000 – and a glowing testimonial from the judges. “This year, Steve has supported over 1,000 children at his free gardening sessions at Dobbies. He regularly shares his expertise with a local charity, four schools, a college and a hospital to improve their communal spaces. Steve even uses his own car to transport supplies to groups that can't get to him. Great work, Steve!” they reported.
Second prize and £500 went to Zoe Stanmore of Dobbies in Southport. The judges said: “We loved the fact that Zoe runs her own community garden in her spare time and has even gone so far as to donate plants grown there for the benefit of other community groups. She has up to 60 children attend her garden each week and has forged links with local schools and nursing homes. Well done Zoe!”
Third place was taken by Annie Yates of Garden Store, who won £300. “With her focus on creating a free online bank of gardening activities and instruction videos, Annie has done something truly unique,” said the judges. “Due to her online focus, her reach has the potential to expand far beyond the communities in her local vicinity. Plus, her activities are great!”
Steven Purton said: “It feels absolutely amazing to win! It’s lovely that people appreciate what we’re doing. Garden centres can be just another soul-less retail outlet, but the Cultivation Street ambassador scheme turns us into something else – it makes us a part of the community. You have all the schools and clubs that you’re helping and teaching and you really feel like you’re giving something back to the children and adults in the local area. It’s not just about the plants growing but the people growing too.”
The 12 Ambassador runners up (eachj of whom won £100) were: Jackie Barker (Notcutts, Solihull), Gary Bissett (Inver Garden Centre), Louise Canfield (Aylett Nurseries), Angela Fletcher (Notcutts Rivendell), Steve Fry (Gardens Group Dorset), Graham Heath (Garden Store, Littleheath), Georgina Isherwood (Dobbies Kings Lynn), Matthew Lewis (Old Railway Line Brecon), Sophie Lyall (Haskins Southampton), Laura Stevens (Dobbies, Livingstone), Carol Watson (Notcutts Tunbridge Wells) and Andrew Wright (Gardens Group, Yeovil).
During 2018 Calliope® has provided a donation of 10,000 plants to projects across the UK.
8000 of the plants will be made available to the 200 strong network of Cultivation Street Ambassador Garden Centres, for them to pass on to their local schools and communities. The plants were divided into packs containing 12 plug plants of Calliope® geraniums. A garden centre could request a pack for every school and community gardening project they work with.
Calliope® are delighted ambassadors have immersed themselves in the campaign by assisting with entries and encouraging communities to share their stories and photos online.