IT WAS the family garden his mother designed before she died – and now by his own hand he has led it to victory.
Carer Ray Hunt has been crowned the winner of this year’s Bloomin’ Marvellous gardening competition, run by The News.
The 62-year-old topped the entries after impressing judges with his prim and proper back garden in Waterlooville.
Despite the late season, the quirky, colourful space shone during a September inspection – earning him the coveted first-place voucher for £100 to spend at the Garsons garden centre, in Titchfield.
‘I am so pleased and a little shocked,’ Ray said.
‘Gardening is my stress relief and I love to get out there and lose myself.
‘When I found out I had won it definitely brightened up my day.’
Among the plants Mr Hunt’s garden boasts are two palm trees and a chocolate cosmos – a cocoa-scented dahlia with Mexican origins.
But despite being described as ‘very well-kept’ by judge Callum Hartley, in light of a buffeting from recent storms, the garden’s story and Ray’s emotional connection with it is every bit as touching as the garden is pleasant.
‘I was actually born in this house and the garden was designed by my late mother, paid for by my dad and planted by me. It’s a real family affair,' he said.
‘Finding out I won the competition came as good news because my dad has been in and out of hospital lately with cancer of the oesophagus. My mum actually died of cancer in 1990 as well.’
Taking a look around Mr Hunt’s garden as they judged the Bloomin’ Marvellous top-three last month, Garsons employees Callum Hartley and Peter Green were pleased with what they saw.
‘At a time when gardens start to look really sad, Ray’s was still looking very neat and tidy,’ Mr Hartley said.
‘It was colourful and it was very clear he took good care of it.’
On stepping in as a 2018 judge for The News’ legend Brian Kidd, he added: ‘It was definitely a change of scenery.
‘Going out and judging the gardens was really good fun and we met lovely people along the way.
‘Brian’s are big shoes to fill, but I hope we did him proud.’
The second-place prize of a £50 Garsons voucher was secured by Langdale Nursing Home, in Gosport, which encourages its patients to enjoy the therapeutic qualities of the great outdoors.
Earning third place was Copnor resident Geoff Craig, with a stunning, floral patio display.
Both entrants are set to appear in Saturday’s edition of The News, with a picture gallery of 2018 Bloomin’ Marvellous entries – including theirs – available at the top of this story.
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