An incredible space packed full of interesting features in Kidsgrove and a delightful, wildlife- friendly area in Clayton were announced the best residential gardens in Newcastle-under-Lyme in an annual competition.

Maureen Wilson and Graham Green, and Donna Thorley, became the respective winners of Judges’ Choice Awards in the hotly-contested residential category of Newcastle Borough Council’s annual gardening competitions after equally impressing the judges with their outstanding horticultural work this summer.

The results of the Council’s popular contest – an important part of the borough’s Heart of England in Bloom entry – were announced at a celebration event held at the New Vic Theatre to applaud 30 years of success for Newcastle-under- Lyme in the country’s largest horticultural campaign.

Wonderful spaces at every turn created with “real love and thought” – including a “sensational” book display (main image) – earned Maureen and Graham high praise from three horticultural experts alongside Donna whose mature garden boasts a range of perennial and annual planting, using a tremendous colour pallet, with “beautifully manicured” borders and lawns (image below).

Donna-Thorley-NUL-Bloom-2021
Donna Thorley’s winning garden entry

Green-fingered residents across the borough were invited to submit digital entries for the first time this year following the pandemic. Rather than judges visiting people’s homes as usual, gardeners were asked to send up to five photographs – highlighting aspects such as wonderful views of a front/rear garden, an outstanding feature, good practice or evidence of encouraging wildlife – along with an optional short written summary.

The judges awarded top marks to Sir Thomas Boughey Academy, Halmer End, in the schools category for successfully turning a previously disused area into a wildlife haven. The school’s “wild garden” project, created by the science club during the pandemic, links to the science curriculum. Students have built bug hotels, bird habitats, feeders and a range of planters which they have filled with pollinator-friendly plants.

Terry Lovatt, a long standing supporter of Newcastle in Bloom, received the Judges’ Choice Award in the allotments section for his ongoing efforts to maintain his plot at Basford Allotments to the highest standard.

Not only did Newcastle-under-Lyme win a nineteenth consecutive gold award in the small city category of Heart of England in Bloom this year, it gained several discretionary awards: Horticultural excellence – Queen’s Gardens, Newcastle, Environmental award – Silverdale Community Country Park, Grounds maintenance award – Newcastle town centre roundabouts and public art, Community achievement – Silverdale Mining Memorial, Health and well-being – Amanda Stevenson, Lisbon Court, Clayton.

Because all portfolios were judged digitally, there was no category or overall winner this year.

Cllr Jill Waring, Cabinet member for leisure, culture and heritage, said: “I would like to thank everyone who took the time and effort to enter the Council’s gardening competitions, with special congratulations going to the winners of the Judges’ Choice Awards. They play an important part in the borough’s overall bloom campaign by bringing communities together, through their shared love of horticulture, to help make Newcastle-under-Lyme an even better place to live, work and visit.
“We’ve had to do things slightly differently this time round, but it’s been great to start engaging with residents again after a year away due to lockdowns. The borough is home to many talented gardeners and it’s fantastic to see people enjoying their gardens more than ever during this unprecedented time.
“It’s been another successful campaign and that’s down to the hard work and dedication of our communities and staff teams. The Britain in Bloom judges are clearly happy that we’ve maintained the same high standards despite all the challenges the pandemic has brought which makes it all the more special. It’s great to keep the borough up there among the leading lights of ‘bloom’, a proud reputation we’ve cultivated over the past 30 years.

“It’s also lovely to be able to celebrate our collective achievements at the New Vic Theatre while marking our special anniversary. The borough’s Britain in Bloom campaign has evolved so much over the past three decades and we’ve achieved so much during that time – here’s to the next 30 years.”

In the licensed premises/businesses contest, the Judges’ Choice Award went to the Old Hall, a 15th century garden in Madeley. Meanwhile, Jean Stevenson – another “bloom” veteran – received recognition for vastly
improving popular community gardens in Church Street and Vernon Avenue, Audley, by introducing new plants to the areas she meticulously maintains.

All 48 entrants were presented with certificates of appreciation in addition to bulbs and seeds while the six Judges’ Choice Award winners also received bespoke, ceramic plant labels made by event sponsors Black Star Ceramics from Baldwins Gate.

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