Blooming behind bars

A Kent prison wins prestigious garden competition

Nectar-rich naturalistic planting at HMP MaidstoneHMP Maidstone in Kent has been named winner of the prestigious RHS-backed Windlesham Trophy Competition 2014 for the best-kept prison garden in England and Wales.

This is the prison’s second victory in the competition’s 30-year history; previously it won the trophy in 1991.

RHS President Sir Nicholas Bacon presented the Windlesham Trophy, a specially engraved brass 'Green Goddess' fire-engine bell, to Maidstone’s prisoners and staff during a special ceremony at the prison on 5 September 2014.

Competition judges, Fiona Crumley, Michael Hickson VMH and RHS Council Member Jon Wheatley, praised both the 15 prisoners and the Maidstone garden staff for their extensive knowledge of plant cultivation, across vegetables, bedding plants, herbaceous borders, wildflowers, trees and shrubs, as well as their general enthusiasm for plants.

The winning garden impressed the judges with its combination of formal and informal planting. ‘Garden rooms’ used both naturalistic, wildflower meadow planting and more formal, structured designs.

The garden’s focus on biodiversity, conservation and wellbeing also caught the judges’ eye. The creation of ‘bug-hotels’, nectar-rich wildflower meadows and systems to turn waste into garden compost demonstrated the sustainable horticultural practices that are now assessed as part of the competition.

Speaking about the positive impact gardening has had on prisoners, HMP Maidstone Governor David Atkinson said: “Head Gardener Justin Scott and his team have managed to create areas around the jail of beauty and simplicity which draws the eye and the heart away from the sometimes austere and cold environment. 

“Without realising it the gardens team have created areas which are representative of Maidstone’s foreign national population by showcasing their diversity in the different types of flowers, plants and grasses. The gardening party have overcome language and cultural barriers and joined together as a team, leaning to value each other’s contribution.

“Justin has been able to teach new and transferable skills which can be universally applied irrespective of where individuals will eventually live. His enthusiasm and positive attitude has had a major impact on his team and these gardens are a testament to that.”

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