A Larne “ambassador” for gardening is Northern Ireland’s runner-up in a national competition founded by celebrity gardener David Domoney.
Gary Bissett , retail manager, at Inver Garden Centre, in the town is “over the moon” to have his outreach work given official recognition.
The prizewinning horticulturist has been working with schools across East Antrim and further afield as an ambassador for “Cultivation Street”, a scheme to get more people gardening.
He is delighted to see the fruits of his labours and recalled a project at a Carnlough school in County Antrim where pupils were each able to bring home a bag of vegetables grown in containers on a tarmac site.
At Carnalbanagh Primary, a rural school outside Glenarm, pupils created a colourful display of flowers grown in disused tractor tyres.
His work started before he became involved with the scheme officially and he has become known in East Antrim schools as “Gary the Gardener”.
“I go out to schools to work with kids to encourage them about gardening”, he explained.
“When I became a Cultivation Street ambassador, I wrote to every school in the district. Sometimes, I go out out to give advice. Sometimes schools talk to me about starting something up.”
He is in no doubt that he can cultivate an interest in the youngest gardeners, encouraging them to grow anything from sunflowers to vegetables, from sowing the first seed.
He stressed that something can be grown in even the smallest space, such as a hanging basket for strawberries or a box for lettuces.
He said that his role as an ambassador has enabled him to pass on his love of gardening to schoolchildren.
“It is important to get children into gardeningas they are the future. I am passionate about what I do. To be recognised for it, it is great.”