Cody Smith began showing an interest in plants when he was four, although at that age he was more interested in the roots than the stems, says his mother, Julie. Now 14, he is a gifted gardener, and he donates some of the proceeds from the flowers he grows on an allotment in Cumbria to charity.
The teenager tends about 800 plants – mainly dahlias, though he has recently added chrysanthemums and gladioli to his collection – on two plots in Milnthorpe, in the Lake District. He sells the blooms once a week at Booths, a local supermarket chain, giving part of the proceeds to the RNLI and some to Young Hort, an initiative designed to promote young horticultural talent.
“I can go to my allotment to be myself and experiment with new things my own way,” he says. “I love August and September, when it’s blooming with colour and wildlife.”
Cody began his gardening adventure by growing vegetables. His interest in flowers was sparked by an encounter with Jack Gott, a well-known Cumbrian dahlia breeder. Mr Gott, 68, who has been growing and selling flowers for more than 45 years, admits he’s looking for a successor and thinks Cody may well step into his shoes.
“Some days, he’ll stop by my house on the way from school and we will spend an hour talking about flowers,” says Mr Gott, who recognised the teenager’s talent from the outset. It was he who taught Cody everything about dahlias.
Since discovering dahlias, Cody has been hooked. “They’re are a fun plant to grow,” he says, “because they give you beautiful results.” As well as exhibiting his blooms at local shows, Cody has begun providing flowers to weddings and other events.
His parents are proud of their prodigious, driven son. “He’s only 14 and he has managed this all by himself,” says Julie Smith.
Cody’s allotment was visited recently by John Harrison, one of the judges of this week’s Britain’s Best Allotment Competition, part of National Allotment Week. He was clearly amazed by the “riot of colour” hefound, writing: “I wouldn’t be surprised to find him on [BBC2’s] Gardener’s World in 10 years’ time – he’s obviously going places.”
* Following our annual Happy List, The IoS continues to celebrate the unsung heroes who make Britain a better place to live. To suggest someone, visit independent.co.uk/happylist, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or write to Lisa Markwell, Editor, Independent on Sunday, 2 Derry Street, London W8 5HF