Gardeners triumph despite challenging conditions

Picture captions:  1) Chris Collins presents Olive Woodall (left) and Andrea Kirby with Hampden Park's winning certificate
Picture captions: 1) Chris Collins presents Olive Woodall (left) and Andrea Kirby with Hampden Park's winning certificate

The winners of this year’s Southern Water South & South East in Bloom contest have been announced, with all gardeners involved having faced a challenging few months due to varying weather conditions.

Flowering fanatics across the region soaked up a number of top awards, including Hailsham in Bloom, which scooped the Community Involvement award and silver gilt in the Large Town category, as well as Princess Diana Memorial Garden in Hampden Park, which won silver gilt in the Small Park category .

More than 330 people from 18 regions attended the awards ceremony at The Assembly Hall in Royal Tunbridge Wells, with celebrity green-fingered gardener, Chris Collins, presenting all entrants with a certificate and an engraved glass trophy to the main winners.

After Jeff Bentley-Astor and Richard Grocock collected Hailsham’s Community Involvement award, Jeff said, “We’re completely astounded and blown away – we didn’t expect this! The award has come as a complete shock. There are eight of us that have put in plenty of overtime on this entry and we’re going to work even harder for next year.”

The root themes of the Southern Water-sponsored competition are horticulture and gardening, environmental responsibility and community participation.

Andy Shaddick, public affairs manager at Southern Water, said, “This year’s competition has been bigger and better than ever before, with the amount of entries totalling a record number of 353. As ever, people put a great deal of effort into their entries and it is wonderful to witness communities pulling together.

“We are committed to being an active partner in the communities we serve and we are proud to be long-standing sponsors of South & South East in Bloom.”

South & South East in Bloom chairman, Peter Holman, said, “It’s been a record breaking year and my thanks go to all those who have worked so hard on their entry. The environmental side of the campaign is especially important as we look back over our hottest summer since 2006 and it reminds us that we still need to garden responsibly and, wherever possible, reduce our reliance on water hungry plants and the need for regular irrigation.”