BY TOBY PORTER
A woman who pioneered community gardening has been honoured by the most prestigious organisation of growers in the land.
Linda Phillips, director and founder of the London education and environment charity Roots and Shoots, has been made a Royal Horticultural Society Associate of Honour.
She was presented with her award at the RHS People Awards ceremony on Monday, April 8 for her work in Southwark and Lambeth.
Linda, pictured, who lives with her family in Bromley, is an allotmenter and committee member of the award-winning Dorset Road Allotments in Beckenham, the first to be awarded a Green Pennant (now Green Flag) for providing a high-quality green space run by a community group.
One of the others is her best friend Sarah Wain, until recently Gardens Supervisor of West Dean Gardens, whom she met when a student at the Royal Botanical Gardens in Kew.
The Associate of Honour, established in 1930, “is awarded to persons of British nationality who have rendered distinguished service to the practice of horticulture either as employers, or employees during the course of their working career.”
The number of Associates of Honour may not exceed 100 at any one time. On graduating from Kew in 1981, Linda was appointed by the Lady Margaret Hall Settlement, a South London charity, to set up a project in response to concerns about young people in Lambeth and Southwark leaving special schools with little hope of employment.
Using horticulture as the medium of education, she founded Roots and Shoots in Walnut Tree Walk, Kennington in 1982 to nurture and train local young people in all the practical and other skills they needed to enter wider life and employment.
During her 36 years as director, Linda has transformed a polluted site into a UNESCO-award-winning wildlife garden and Site of Importance for Nature Conservation; she has developed the horticulture-based training for young people at Roots into an international exemplar of best practice, flexible and strong enough to thrive and grow through political and financial turmoil and she has opened Roots to the local community to become a well-known and well-loved part of the Kennington landscape.
She was awarded the MBE in 2012 for services to young people and won two gold medals at Chelsea Flower Show in 2013 and 2015 collaborating with Pennard Plants.
Linda said: “I think horticulture is a fantastic tool to enhance the lives of so many people. Our students have had difficult lives, and horticulture stabilises and strengthens their physical health, calms and regulates their emotional experience and nurtures and develops their inner lives and aspirations.
When students leave Roots, they are ready to handle relationships, employment and life in the wider community.”