'Beacon of hope', 22, wins PGG award alongside three senior professional gardeners

A 22-year-old gardener with nine years' horticultural work experience under her belt has been named Professional Gardeners' Guild New Gardener of the Year, gained a diploma and won £300.

Becky Cross with her award and diploma at RHS Hyde Hall. Image: HW
Becky Cross with her award and diploma at RHS Hyde Hall. Image: HW

Becky Cross, floating gardener at the Royal Gardens at Highgrove, was described by guild chairman Tony Arnold as "shining like a beacon of hope for the future of gardening", "extremely hard-working no matter what the job or weather" and "an honest, caring and determined individual with a very good sense of humour".

He added: "Every garden she has worked in has been impressed by her enthusiasm, her plant knowledge, her plant knowledge and practical skills and her eagerness to learn more and be the best she can be."

When she was presented with her award, at the Professional Gardeners’ Guild Annual General Meeting at RHS Hyde Hall on Friday, guild president John Humphris also presented her with a diploma showing she had completed three years of the PGG traineeship and she also won £300 for being the trainee who had scored the highest marks for practical work.

Speaking to Horticulture Week, Cross, who worked part-time at Staverton Bridge nursery and garden centre in her native Devon for five years and completed a year’s apprenticeship at the Eden Project before being accepted onto the PGG trainee scheme, had a modest approach to award winning, saying being fussed over was "really embarrassing".

But she said her career had "worked out very well" and she wanted to encourage other young people to consider horticulture as a career. She is also a YoungHort ambassador.

"I’ve always loved plants, I’ve always had that passion and enthusiasm for plants. I’m really committed to not just promoting the traineeship as a whole but promoting it in general, it’s fantastic for career changers and for younger people. It’s important to see it valued and considered as a serious, professional career. There are so many areas you can go into."

During her traineeship – a year each at Ashridge, Hertfordshire, the National Botanic Garden, Wales and Highgrove - she has gained practical skills as well as RHS Level 2 in Horticulture. She is now completing Level 3.

John Ellis, Nigel Hewish and Ian Stephenson were all given Loyal Service Awards at the event, near Chelmsford in Essex.

Arnold described Ellis as an "enthusiastic and active head gardener with the National Trust for 24 years"  who is "a much respected professional gardener, an excellent motivator and manager and someone who always takes time and interest in supporting and encouraging those he meets and works with".

Hewish, Arnold said, has worked at Kingston Maurward College since the early 1990s, "with dedication and professionalism". The college gardens are "a tribute to his work and to his horticultural knowledge and expertise".

At Monteviot House, Stephenson, has made "a considerable impact as head gardener, maintaining the gardens to a very high standard and developing new areas of interest. The two new gardens he has created, The Dene Garden and The Garden of Persistent Imagination have caught the imagination of many visitors and under his care and leadership, the gardens have become widely renowned and greatly admired."

For more on the PGG AGM see the next issue of Horticulture Week, out 14 October.

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