As the summer months draw near, many people will look to their gardens as a source of contentment.
And what better way to cement your pride in your beloved earthy space then by entering The News’ coveted Bloomin’ Marvellous garden competition.
Anyone can enter the annual affair – regardless of whether you’re an experienced gardener or new to the green-fingered hobby.
All you have to do is send us a photo of your garden – and the best looking ones will be whittled down to a shortlist of ten.
Then our Bloomin’ Marvellous judge Brian Kidd and reporter Miles O’Leary will pay a visit to each of the gardens and decide which one should be crowned the worthy winner.
The champion gardener will pick up £100 in gardening vouchers from Garsons Garden Centre in Titchfield, while there’s a second prize of £50 in vouchers and £25 for third place.
Our contest is all about celebrating the wonderful efforts that people put into making their garden look impressive.
And there’s good news because Brian reckons that many gardens have remained unaffected by this year’s more than average rainfall.
He explains: ‘It’s been quite different this year – it’s been one of the wettest springs I have known for a long time.
‘And now you could say it’s too hot for the plants – which is typical of British weather, it’s so changeable.
‘One week you’re in the oven, the next you’re in Iceland and the following week it could be different again.
‘But most gardeners know the weather is variable and act accordingly.
‘Experience helps but if you put time and effort into making your garden look nice then you can produce wonderful results.
‘Gardeners are the most enthusiastic, optimistic folk.’
Brian, who has been the chief judge of Bloomin’ Marvellous for the last eight years, says: ‘I absolutely love doing this. I only like doing things that I really enjoy and this is one of them.
‘I love meeting people, talking to them and listening to what they have to say. And most of all I love looking at all the lovely gardens. It’s a passion of mine.
Margaret Pouter’s colourful, 40ft long garden in Alverstoke ran away as last year’s winner.
But Mrs Poulter, who has been an active gardener for 50 years, still remains humble about her success.
She says: ‘Even to this day I am shocked that I won.
‘I don’t really know why mine was chosen to be honest – though my garden is fairly large and colourful I never thought it would win.
‘I haven’t made my mind up as to whether I will enter the competition again this year, but I will certainly give it some thought.
Veteran gardener Margaret has a history of accolades – her garden won the ‘best large garden’ award at the 1999 Gosport in Bloom contest.
A year later her garden – which is made up of evergreen shrubs, roses, pink flowers and a cherry tree - came second in the same category.
She adds: ‘The best piece of advice I can give to people who want to enter is to just enjoy it. At the end of the day it’s a bit of fun and it’s an added bonus if you win something at the end of it.
‘Gardening is a great form of exercise and it gets rid of a lot of stress. I would say it’s very therapeutic.
‘With the money that I won last year I bought a new ornament for the garden as well as a couple of Acer shrubs and more plants.’
The winning garden will be featured in The News and on our website, portsmouth.co.uk – and the winners will be invited to the award-winning Garsons Garden Centre to receive their prize of vouchers and the Bloomin’ Marvellous 2012 award.
A selection of other entries will appear in the paper and on the website.
Brian adds: ‘When I judge people’s entries, I start at the front garden wall and decide whether there are any weeds or litter. Those things count as black marks in my book.
‘Then I go into the garden and see whether it has been furnished well. I look to see if there is plenty of space and if that space has been used well too.
‘I also consider whether the garden is welcoming and if there is plenty of colour. There is still plenty of time to add a few changes – why not add red, white, blue, gold, silver and purple colours to tie in with this year’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations? Doesn’t that sound like a magnificent combination?
‘I also want to see if there is somewhere in the garden where you can enjoy the sun and the shade and a place to sit and listen to the birds.
‘I also love to see runner beans and other types of vegetables in a garden because it adds a lot character.
‘I hope to see a lot of entrees and it’s a privilege to once again be the one who decides who will make the shortlist and who will be the winner.
‘I’m really looking forward to getting out there and seeing what everyone has achieved.’
The News’ garden guru and weekend columnist Brian Kidd is urging people to send in the finest snaps of their garden.
He says: ‘The crucial thing is people sending in the best view of their garden, and the view they like the most – because it’ll most probably be my favourite view too.
‘The most important thing is your garden must be neat and tidy around the edges of lawns of bushes.
‘There shouldn’t be any weeds and any gaps you have in your garden can be quickly filled with pots containing colourful flowers.’
‘It doesn’t matter how big or small your garden is – the important thing is how you use the space you’ve got.
‘There have been two winners in the past whose gardens couldn’t have been smaller. I had trouble getting into one of them.’
HOW TO ENTER
You need to take a good quality picture of your garden and send it to us by midnight on Thursday, July 21, 2012.
Remember that our judge, Brian Kidd, is basing his decisions solely on your photos so make sure to capture your garden’s best bits.
Either post your picture to Bloomin’ Marvellous, Features Department, The News, Hilsea, Portsmouth, PO2 9SX or email it to email@example.com
Make sure to include your full name, a daytime telephone number and a postal address with the photographs or emails you send to us. It would also be helpful to give us some background information about your garden.
Unfortunately we are not able to return posted prints.