The tough University Challenge-style contest came to an exciting finale on Saturday at University Centre Shrewsbury as eight finalists battled it out to see who had the best young horticultural brain.
Rae, who studied Horticulture with Plantsmanship at Scotland's rural college SRUC and The Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, and the finalist for Scotland, was second to Fern Champney when they entered the final round, which features 20 quick fire questions with 40 points up for grabs. Rae, 24 and a YoungHort ambassador, reached the final three times and last year came fourth. He beat Champney by just five points. Josh Egan-Wyer came third.
Competition organiser Susan Nicholas said she had never seen such a tight competition
Rae’s prize is the opportunity to travel anywhere in the world with a £2,500 bursary, provided in honour of Britain’s first celebrity gardener and Gardeners’ World presenter Percy Thrower. He is planning a trip to Australia and Tasmania and wants to become a TV gardener himself.
An audience of more than 70 people, including HTA head of horticulture Raoul Curtis-Machin, members of the Shropshire Horticultural Society and Harrogate Flower Shows show director Nick Smith watched the event, which started with a morning filled with relentless rounds of plant identification.
2012 YHOY winner, Douglas Mackay said: "They hid their nerves much better than I remember managing to and it was so closely-fought. The day had a great buzz and you feel so energised by all that horticultural knowledge."
Margaret Thrower, Ann Kirkham and Sue Jones, Percy Throwers’ three daughters presented the certificates to Rae and the runners-up, Fern Champney, Josh Egan-Wyer, Matthew Brewer, Peter Adams, , Julia Andersson, Bryan Howard, Egle Zinkute and Nathan Foulds, who all received a collage of one of Percy Throwers horticultural projects, the dingle, a book and free membership to both the CIH and Plant Network. Champney got a £950 prize, Ega-Wyer, £550 and the rest £200 each as prizes.
This year’s competition received over 2,500 entries from young horticulturists under the age of 30 from all over the UK and Ireland.
The CIH has a gallery of images on its website.