A West Devon market trader disabled by a sudden paralysis is to show off his talents at a top national garden show.

Award-winning Ben Thornton, 28, turned to gardening to recover from his paralysis and to support his associated mental health.

He was paralysed from the chest down when he was only 14 while on holiday abroad with his family and has slowly recovered his mobility over the years to become a young gardening sensation. He has been hailed by star horticulturist and broadcaster Monty Don as an inspiration. Ben, who has since started a business called the Young Grower and won a national gardening award, has flowered early in his career as a budding horticulturist. He is now delighted to have been accepted to design a show garden for the BBC Gardening World show in June at the NEC in Birmingham, attended by the most famous British gardeners. Ben, who won the Great British Growing Awards: Best British Influencer title (including winners such as Monty Don and Alan Titchmarsh), credits the unearthing of his early gardening talent to his recovery.

He said: ‘This is the pinnacle of my life so far. I’ve only had a business a short time and it will give me big exposure where thousands of people will visit and where the top gardeners like Alan Titchmarsh will also be showing. I’m still young and I started gardening when I was a young teenager, so to be able to design for the BBC Gardeners’ World show is amazing.’

Ben is now able to walk, needing only a stick, and has some health issues linked to his paralysis. But he has overcome setbacks to start trading in Tavistock’s Pannier Market, selling soaps with ingredients from his allotment. The young entrepeneur’s talent was spotted by Monty Don, the BBC Gardeners’ World presenter, who has aired his own struggles against mental health setbacks: ‘I was featured on Gardeners’ World by Monty Don, who has had his mental health problems. He showed my video of me gardening on his show during lockdown and talked about how getting out in my allotment helped me during my blackest periods. He called me an ‘enterprising young man’. It’s really good for him to shine a light on mental health issues and link it to gardening. Gardening has helped me both physically and mentally. I love growing things and it’s given me confidence with my career.’

Ben also has a blog which has 19,000 followers, has been commissioned for the first time to write for the magazine Kitchen Garden and produced a calendar: ‘I hope I’m inspiring other people to take up gardening and to achieve and be successful. It does help that I have a passion for growing. I really enjoy growing heritage vegetables, such as crystal lemon cucumbers and black carrots.’