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Sunderland-based Firefighter Crowned B&Q Gardener of the Year

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  • B&Q has crowned the winner of its first B&Q Gardener of the year competition at a ceremony attended by the judges - Jim Moir, award-winning garden designers, Matt Childs and Humaira Ikram, and B&Q Outdoor Category Director, Steve Guy
  • Firefighter, Gary McLaughlan, who designed his garden for his social worker partner, Lindsey Elliott, both from Sunderland, won the judges vote with his small, but bounteous 4.5m x 3.5m garden – one of the smallest entered into the competition 
  • He will receive £10,000 in prize money, a B&Q Green Card, giving access to free plants and the B&Q Golden Trowel 

The first ever winner of the B&Q Gardener of the year competition was today revealed as firefighter, Gary McLaughlan, who has spent four years building and cultivating his garden for his wife Lindsay. The winning garden, which measured just 4.5 x 3.5m was one of the smallest to be entered into the competition, demonstrating that size doesn’t matter when it comes to creating an impactful and creative outside space.

Featuring vertical irrigated plant walls, an ornamental fishpond, and even Church Tracery panels, Gary’s garden maximised space and demonstrated a breadth of creative thinking which impressed the judging panel.  

The competition judges, made up of award-winning garden designers, Matt Childs and Humaira Ikram, B&Q Outdoor Category Director, Steve Guy, and comedian, Jim Moir, were particularly impressed with the clever use of materials in the winning garden, which featured reclaimed elements from the local area, including driftwood from a nearby beach, stained glass windows cleverly used as a skylight, and even planters made from an old RAF luggage trunk. 

Matt Childs praised the way in which Gary “Used every opportunity in his small courtyard garden to maximise planting potential, which consisted of a wonderful palette of textural foliage, creating a garden oasis in the heart of an urban area”. For Humaira Ikram, it was the breadth of criteria which the winning garden delivered against which was particularly impressive: “Not only has Gary created an imaginative small space, with bold use of textures and planting, but he has also considered sustainability with his irrigation system which is fed through the fishpond.” 

Gary, 44, who is Sunderland born and bred, and has been a firefighter for 17 years, was today awarded £10,000 in prize money, a B&Q Green Card giving access to free plants, and the much sought-after B&Q Golden Trowel.

The competition, which launched in May, sought to celebrate gardens great and small following research revealing that 80% of Brits had got more into gardening in the last year. Nearly 2000 entries were submitted from green-fingered Brits across the UK, who entered their outside spaces against five criteria including: best use of colour; best use of small space; best use of imagination; best grow your own space and best eco-friendly garden. 

In keeping with the competition launch, which saw Jim Moir issuing a ‘call to trowels’ while sat on a floral throne, the winner has been awarded his prize in suitable style, featuring the same floral throne and sought-after B&Q Golden Trowel. Video content of the awards ceremony is available here

B&Q Gardener of the year, Gary McLaughlan says; “I’m absolutely over the moon to be crowned the first ever B&Q Gardener of the year! I originally designed the garden for my partner, Lindsey, who spent time gardening as a child, so I wanted to create a space for her which evoked those memories. I never thought it would win any awards, until I spotted that B&Q was looking for everyday gardeners who may not have expansive outside spaces – that’s when I knew I had to enter! I get so much enjoyment out of gardening and feel very proud that my small outside space made such an impact on the judges. I’m relatively new to gardening, and still have a lot to learn, but this competition has most certainly shown that you don’t need a huge garden or bags of experience to create a uniquely beautiful outside space.” 

Comedian and garden-enthusiast Jim Moir commented: “It was the versatility of Gary's garden that struck me – I could imagine myself sat there in the mornings with a cup of tea, surrounded by all those fantastic plants, and then enjoying a beer under the outside lights in the evening. Despite being a small space, the garden seemed to be the perfect place to enjoy and unwind come day or night.”

Steve Guy, B&Q Outdoor Category Director says: “At B&Q, our mission is to cater for each of our customers individually by providing them with a great range of quality plants, enabling them to create amazing outside spaces, just like Gary’s! In launching the B&Q Gardener of the year competition, we sought to celebrate gardens of all shapes and sizes. Our winning garden is a great example of a space which could have proved difficult to work with, but with careful consideration and innovative thinking, has been transformed into an oasis, with versatile areas for Gary and Lindsey to enjoy.” 

Alongside the B&Q Gardener of the year, four runners up were chosen, based on the criteria, each of whom receive £1,000 in prize money. 

A separate B&Q Community garden of the year competition, also a first for 2021, saw Brickmakers Wood community garden in Ipswich chosen as the winning entry. Previously an unmanaged site, littered with decades worth of rubbish, Brickmakers Wood has been transformed by local volunteers into a lush and vibrant space for the residents to enjoy. As B&Q Community garden of the year, Brickmakers Wood will receive a B&Q Green Card, giving access to £2,500 worth of plants, as well as an expert consultation session with award-winning garden designers, Matt Childs and Humaira Ikram.

Source: B&Q and Insight DIY

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08 July 2021

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