Former East Durham College Horticulture student Chris Parsons

Third Time Lucky For Green Fingered Master Mind

East Durham College Horticulture lecturer Dawn James with 2014 Young Horticulturist of the Year Chris Parsons.

Former East Durham College horticulture student Chris Parsons has been crowned the winner of the Institute of Horticulture’s Young Horticulturist of the Year competition.

Chris, 23, from Heighington, competing in his third national YHOY final, came out on top in a tough final at Norwich’s John Innes Centre.

After successfully winning the initial area heat at the Houghall Campus back in February, Chris went on to qualify for the grand final after winning the Northern Regional final at Stockbridge Technology Centre in March.

Contestants had to answer questions across every aspect of horticulture and cope with tough plant and pest and disease identification rounds to secure their places in the Grand Final.

And after finishing second in the Grand Final in 2011 and 2013 it was third time lucky for talented Chris, who battled it out with seven other finalists to claim the top spot.

Along with the prestigious title of Young Horticulturist of the Year, Chris also picked up a number of other prizes including the Percy Thrower Travel Bursary of £2000 giving him the opportunity to travel anywhere in the world.

Chris said it was a brilliant feeling to win the competition, but also a huge relief to finally win at the third time of asking.

Chris Parsons winner of IoH award Chris said: “It felt great to win the competition and it was a huge relief that I would be free of having that pressure looming over me again.

“The YHoY competition has been brilliant and over the last four years that I have entered I have met some excellent like-minded people from all over the country. The competition this year was exceptionally strong.”

And now Chris, who runs his own gardening business across County Durham, is weighing up his options with what to do with his travel bursary.

Chris added: “I am still exploring my options for spending the bursary money. The mountains of both Taiwan and Vietnam sound interesting and I would really like to go and see the flora in either of those places.”

The competition, now in its 25th year, saw nearly 2,000 students from across Britain and Ireland taking part in local heats and regional finals. For the talented eight who contested the Grand Final it was a hard slog to get there.

David Domoney FI Hort, the Grand Final Question Master said: “I had an amazing day at the Grand Final. It was an absolute pleasure to be the Question Master and I found it just as exciting as the contestants.

“The audience were fantastic and the room was electric throughout.

“If this is a test of the quality of the young talent coming up in the industry, it’s incredibly promising for the future of horticulture.”

Leigh Morris FI Hort, President of the Institute of Horticulture’ added: “My warmest congratulations go to all eight finalists, who all achieved so much to get to the Grand Final, and particularly Chris Parsons, from the Northern Branch, who won the day and became Young Horticulturist of the Year 2014! It was the 3rd year Chris has reached the Grand Final and the experience of two previous near misses helped him to victory.”

Check out our website for detail on our courses in horticulture at the Houghall Campus or call our Student Services Team on 0191 375 4710.