Green fingered local gardeners have been celebrating after being honoured at a special award ceremony to mark the end of First Choice Homes Oldham's annual gardening competition – Growing Together.
The awards, which recognise local people who take pride in creating beautiful outdoor spaces for themselves and their local communities to enjoy, are a highlight of the annual calendar for First Choice Homes Oldham residents.
Winners, who received trophies and cash prizes for their horticultural achievements, were announced at a special ceremony at Smokies Hotel. The ceremony was held in conjunction with Oldham Council and Regenda Homes who also gave out prizes to their residents.
Guest speaker at the event was television broadcaster Chris Bavin, who presents programmes such as Eat Well for Less, Britain's Best Home Cook, and Britain in Bloom.
Local judges Diane Drinkwater and Andy Mullington travelled the borough to look at all of the entries received. They were looking for beautiful colour schemes, healthy plants and the overall impact of the garden, allotment or arrangement of baskets and containers, before choosing the winners.
Overall winners on the night were Patricia and John Graham from Dobcross in Saddleworth, whose garden, according to the judges, has a cottage garden feel, packed with fruit trees, vegetables, ornamental plants and a seating area where people can sit and enjoy the view.
Patricia Graham said: "We're amazed and delighted to have won this award. Never in our wildest dreams did we think we would win. When we moved into the house nothing had been done with the garden at all, it was just grass.
"We dug out some beds in the front, and a friend kindly gave us some cuttings from her garden to try and grow. We are really grateful as we couldn't have done it without her help, as the garden is really exposed and we couldn't have afforded to buy all the plants, especially as we didn't know what would successfully grow in this difficult position.
"We planted some perennials, shrubs and bulbs in for the Spring, and we built a patio too. We're next to a field of cows, and they love to come and lean over to eat blackcurrants, gooseberries and raspberries from our bushes – we're never alone in the garden! People often wander in to our garden to admire it too. We feel really privileged to live here and to have won."
Other awards presented included Most Improved Garden, Best Community Garden, Best Hanging Baskets, Containers or Window Boxes, Best Edible Garden and Young Gardener.
The Young Gardener award was presented to two deserving winners, who were recognised for their positive efforts to create better environments and develop new skills.
The first winner, 11 year old Aimee Bone from Uppermill, said: "I really like roses and blue orchids, so I grew those, plus I had begonias in tubs. I made a fairy garden by including fairy houses, fairy shoes, elves and a shop for the fairies called 'Elfridges'. I chose some plants that looked like ballerinas too.
"Winning this award makes me feel really good and makes me want to carry on gardening. I'm trying to persuade my friends who live nearby to help me create a community garden for us all to enjoy. I hope me winning this award will help me to encourage them to get involved in it."
The second winners of the Young Gardener category were sisters Paige, Krystal and Scarlett Jones, from Derker, who also created a fairy garden.
Eleven year old Paige, said: "I feel very proud to have won the award. I'm very happy and excited. It's great to know that other people have looked at our garden and enjoyed it. We grew tulips, lilies and wild flowers to provide a wild habitat for our fairies, and also grew strawberries which we enjoyed eating.
"In between the plants we created a village with houses, animals, a bridge, trees, river and pebbles, and we even have fairy lights that light it up at night. We also had a dinosaur pond for my sister Krystal. We'll definitely continue gardening."
The Growing Together awards have continued to go from strength to strength. First Choice Homes Oldham Chief Executive Vinny Roche said: "This was another fantastic evening, and it was fabulous to be able to celebrate some of the amazing gardeners who have created such wonderful outdoor spaces.
"Despite the fact that 2019 has been difficult weather-wise, the passion shown by the gardeners to keep everything blooming has been truly inspiring. It's really important to us that the competition is open to green fingered enthusiasts of all ages and abilities, and the range of amazing gardens on display really does show what a difference residents are making to our local neighbourhoods. We've been thrilled with the response and the fact that there are so many people making Oldham look blooming. Huge thanks to everyone who entered this year, and a big congratulations to all of our worthy winners."
The awards were sponsored by local manufacturing joiners and contractors, Emmanuel Whittaker, with Novus supporting the Young Gardener and Most Improved Garden Award and Airsafe Uk sponsoring the Gardens Awards.