AN aspiring horticulturalist has used his green-fingered talent to spread kindness throughout his village during lockdown.

For the past 12 weeks, Danny Poland has been tending to the vegetable garden at Irthington Village School, as well as growing and delivering sunflowers to bring a little happiness into the lives of others.

The 18-year-old, who has dreams of becoming the head gardener of a world-famous botanical garden, has spent hours ensuring the beds were well-watered and the plants were able to thrive.

He has also has grown more than 50 sunflowers and given most to elderly residents in the village, something that’s become known as Project Sunshine.

“I came up with the idea of giving them to elderly neighbours during this time because they need company,” said Danny. “I volunteered at a residential home prior to lockdown and I just missed the company and talking to people.

“Everyone was very impressed. They were pleased with them and incredibly grateful. They all said they didn’t have much contact with people at this time when they normally would have done.

“I do a lot of outdoor hobbies and things but it’s been great to have an impact on the local community which is that positive.”

The former William Howard School pupil has had a love of gardening since he was a child and he now hoping to turn his passion into a career.

“I just think it’s great that I can get my own produce and I just find it amazing how one seed can create a massive plant that we are able to use. It’s a keen interest and a hobby,” he said.

“A botanical garden would be the end goal. Kew Garden or Edinburgh Gardens. I’ve never been to Kew but I’ve been to Edinburgh twice and really enjoyed it.”

Danny has applied to Newton Rigg to study for an RHS level 2 certificate in horticulture and is waiting for confirmation to find out if he can enrol in September. He had hoped work at a garden centre over the summer to gain more experience but then lockdown stopped him.

To raise the profile of his work he has also sent a video to Alan Titchmarsh’s new ITV gardening show Grow Your Own at Home.

Danny, who lives across the road from his old primary school, was asked by headteacher Lynn Harrison if he could tend the garden while the school was closed and its gardening club was forced out of action.

It has been a key part of the school for many years and comprises of four raised beds for vegetables and strawberries, as well as fruit bushes, apples trees and a herb wheel.

Danny is growing potatoes, carrots, radish, lettuce, courgettes, onions, beans and more.

Pupils enjoy growing their own produce which is then cooked and served for lunch.

Mrs Harrison said teaching children to grow fruit and vegetables encourages them to try new foods and take the healthy option from time to time.

“We thought that our beloved garden would go to seed and be neglected, however Danny came to our rescue,” she said. “He has done a tremendous job, growing all manner of fruit and vegetables.

“Danny has also been growing sunflowers and then distributing to the elderly people in our village, in a bid to spread a little bit sunshine and happiness in these difficult times. I could not have been prouder of our lovely ex-pupil.

“I shall be a close keeping eye on Danny’s progress and will not be surprised to see him win awards or be head gardener at Kew or Edinburgh Botanical gardens one of these days.”

Danny’s mum Samantha Poland, a lunchtime organiser at the school, added: “It’s a beautiful thing that he has done. It’s been so wonderful and special to see Danny do what he loves and that it’s reached out and touched other people as well. We need a bit of light and hope in these times. We are really proud of him.”