Kelly Jean Kerr's Awards Dinner Speech

Rudyard Kipling wrote in the ‘Glory of the Garden’  ‘Our England is a garden and gardens are not made by singing ‘Oh How Beautiful!’ and sitting in the shade.

Kipling was obviously a gardener and now thanks to The Young Horticulturist of the Year competition I now have a very real appreciation of England and her fine gardens.

Winning 2013Young Horticulturist of the Year gave me the opportunity to spend six weeks travelling through England, Scotland, France and Germany, visiting 18 different gardens, attending 2 flower shows, visiting 5 very different garden centres and a Tour through Bayer Crop Science Chemical Park and Research and development facilities.

Along the way I experienced daily life in some major cities and the vital role that Greenspace plays within those cities.

My trip took me on a tour through Southern England, visiting Iconic gardens such as Sissinghurst, Great Dixter and The Lost gardens of Heligan, Places that inspire and educate like The Eden Project and RHS Wisley and a Reserve that was just plain absurd. The worlds first (and hopefully only) Gnome Reserve. From there I spent time in London, where I experienced the RHS Chelsea Flower Show and took in the city sights.

Heading North to Scotland took me To Barton Grange Garden Centre, Destination Garden Centre of the year for the last three years, into the Scottish highlands to Ben Nevis, Down into Edinburgh to the Gardening Scotland Flower Show, Edinburgh castle, Botanical Gardens and Dobbies garden centre. Crossing back in England I headed east to Northumberland’s Alnwick gardens and to Chatsworth Estate where unfortunately Mr Darcy was nowhere to be seen.

Crossing under the channel on the Eurostar, coasting at an easy 160 km per hour I was in France before I knew it.

I spent 5 days based in Paris, travelling out to the Chateau and grounds at Versailles and to Monet’s Garden at Giverney, I hung out with the locals in the Tuilleries Gardens visited Trauffaut for a Paris garden centre experience and in general ate far too much pastry.

It was then onto Germany, to Munich, Lake Constance and Insel Mainau, Nurnberg, and Cologne visiting Bayer Crop science headquarters and the Cologne Cathedral before flying out of Berlin back to London for the long flight back home to winter.

Highlights of my trip were being able to visit the places that I had learnt about during my landscape architecture degree, to experience the work of legends in the design and garden world -Capability Brown, Sir Joseph Paxton, Andre Le Notre, Gertrude Jekyll and their modern day counter parts Jacques Wirtz, Christopher Lloyd and Alan Titchmarsh. I got to see the emerging European trends and exciting new plant releases at the Chelsea Flower Show and after visiting Barton Grange garden centre I was blown away by how high they set the standard for a destination garden centre.

I must say that after 5 weeks of back packing, arriving in Cologne to visit Bayer Crop Science and being put up in a 5 star hotel and having a chauffeur driven BMW for my transport was a substantial (and very welcome) upgrade from my previous accommodation and transport. My hosts at Bayer were so welcoming and my tour was certainly thought provoking. To this years finalists, if you get the opportunity to go, it is a very worthwhile and memorable experience.

In my speech on this stage last year, I spoke about plant life balance - the benefits to our finances, the environment and our social, physical and mental wellbeing that come from having plants around us in our everyday lives. For a ‘clean green’ nation our cities are sadly lacking in greenspaces and trees. We can learn a lot from cities like Paris where from a high vantage point (such as the top of the Eiffel Tower) you can start to appreciate how green they are. Green roofs and living walls, apartment courtyards, street planting and lots of parks and open spaces. And they are well used and well loved. Does anyone care to imagine the Famous Avenue Champs Elysees without its trees? This trip reinforced for me how important green life is in a city. When it hit 40 degrees in Munich, I can’t tell you how thankful I was for the street trees which provided shade and cooled the air.

This year has gone by so fast, I have made many new industry contacts and had this amazing trip which has inspired me to not accept the status quo in my job and in my sector but to have a dream for what we could be and in the process I’ve learnt a lot about our industry and a lot about me. So heartfelt thanks go to our Sponsors who put up the travel Grants that make these experiences possible. To Agmardt, Fruitfed Supplies, T and G, Bayer Crop Science and the rest of the sponsors behind Young Horticulturist of the Year thank you for your Support and Generosity. We couldn’t do it without you.

Kelly Jean Kerr
2013 NZ Young Horticulturalist of the Year

Simon Gourley
Young Horticulturist 2019

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