This image of a purple globe thistle bursting into bloom would be a source of pride for any professional photographer. The fact that it was taken by a schoolgirl is all the more remarkable – so remarkable that judges deemed it the winning entry in this year's Young International Garden Photographer of the Year competition.
Kat Waters from Surrey, who recently turned 16, beat thousands of entrants from around the world to take the coveted prize last week for best single image from someone under the age of 16.
The schoolgirl, who has been taking pictures and entering photography competitions since she was seven, is sitting her GCSEs and harbours ambitions to become a professional photographer.
"I had been scouring the gardens at Cherkley Court, in Surrey, for interesting subjects to photograph," said Kat. "I have an interest in macro photography and botanical subjects are always well suited."
The International Garden Photographer of the Year Exhibition, featuring all the work of the winners and finalists, will open at the Royal Botanic Gardens, at Kew in west London, on Saturday.
The inspiration Kat took from the garden is similarly rubbing off on thousands of other children up and down the country as hundreds more schools signed up to The Independent on Sunday's Let Children Grow campaign this weekend.
The campaign, run in conjunction with the Royal Horticultural Society, is now in its fourth week and has seen 569 schools join up in the drive to give children the chance to grow vegetables. The take-up accounts for approximately 110,000 pupils, who will now benefit from spending more time outdoors, as well as from greater environmental awareness and knowledge of nutrition. The scheme will also increase the amount of time children spend outdoors, promoting a healthy lifestyle.
Last week, scores of famous gardeners, MPs, celebrity chefs and other names added their support for our campaign. The Conservative leader David Cameron, presenter Kim Wilde and chef Antony Worrall Thompson are among those who have given it their backing.
The IoS beacon school for the campaign, Kingsway Primary in Goole, East Yorkshire, continues to plough ahead with its planting and is already seeing some fantastic results.
Head teacher Liam Jackson, writing on the IoS blog, said: "This week, we have been planting like crazy. All the sunflowers have now gone in, with stakes, as they have really begun to take off. We planted some more cosmos, courgettes in a number of growbags and plenty of cabbages. A group of children also put some willow edging around our pumpkin patch. This was done for two reasons. Firstly it looks really good, but secondly, we hope it may act as a bit of a deterrent to a fox that seems to have been playing in that one particular area! We also had to carry out a much less exciting but equally important job – weeding! As one of the children said to me, 'But what's the fun in that?'"
One of the highlights of the week however, was harvesting the spinach crop. "We rinsed it all down and then let every single child in school taste it," Mr Jackson said. "This was really good fun, especially when a child asked, 'why are we eating leaves?' Seriously, this would have been the first time ever that many of these children would have tasted spinach, which is one of the main reasons we are growing all this fruit and veg – to encourage healthy eating.
"Other events this week have included an ex-pupil of the school. He has heard about all the work we are doing, and wanted to help. His bosses at United Utilities allowed him to come into school and build a greenhouse out of bright yellow plastic gas pipes. They have also contributed £250 to have it covered in the special plastic that polytunnels have and to have a door fitted. How fantastic is that. It was constructed in a day, and we are now just waiting for the plastic sheeting to arrive.
"Finally, this week has seen the footings put in for our huge polytunnel that is being constructed on the field. This was exciting for the children to see – but,as they say in cricket, unfortunately rain has stopped play. This 10m by 6m tunnel will be so useful, and we are hoping to use old pallets to knock together as tables for the children to work on – so again, as with the gas pipes, showing off our love of recycling and trying to be green.
"Well, it's off to see how much damage the heavy rain has done to our crops – and then to prepare for the heatwave we might just get next week!"
RHS chelsea flower show: Have a great day out and join our campaign
The Independent on Sunday will be promoting its Let Children Grow campaign at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show this week.
The show is one of the premier events in the gardening calendar, setting trends and providing more than splash of colour and scent on the social scene. Famous gardening names and world-class designers will jostle with the public at the west London venue.
The IoS will be giving away free summer gardening wall-charts and offering information on how to sign up to the Let Children Grow Campaign. Our stand will be at the south-eastern end of the show, held at the Royal Hospital, on the corner of Eastern Avenue and South Ranelagh Way, all week.
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