Belfast Telegraph

Blooming Marvellous: Who's caught the judges' eye and is in final garden bunch?

Tele gardening competition reaches its finale next week

By Linda Stewart

We've scoured hundreds of photographs of lovingly tended gardens – and now it's Judgement Day.

After meticulously scoring almost 60 gardens entered in our Bloomin' Marvellous garden competition, our judges took to the road to track down Northern Ireland's finest gardens.

After painstakingly going through the entries to choose finalists in line for a share of the £4,000 prize fund, BBC Radio Ulster gardening presenter Cherrie McIlwaine and CAFRE Greenmount horticulture lecturer David Dowd set off on a road trip to find the best small urban and small country gardens. The magnificent creations on display ranged from the intriguing 'garden rooms' created by builder Barry Crawford at Ballyblack on the Ards Peninsula to the flower-filled courtyard created by Carol and Brian Mackey at Dromore.

Personal touches included everything from Himalayan prayer flags and wind chimes to lovingly built drystone walls and stark geometrical shapes softened by rampant summer flowers.

Then on Monday it was the turn of Rowallane head gardener Averil Milligan and garden designer Trevor Edwards to head off on the road to investigate Northern Ireland's finest urban gardens and large country gardens, uncovering a wealth of approaches and influences.

They found everything from the Moorish-inspired Portstewart garden designed by James Logan, featuring a central tiled rill and deliciously scented roses, to Jim and Hilary Rafferty's heavenly garden in the Antrim Hills, with a serene millpond harbouring croaking frogs and drifting water crowfoot.

At Denis Boal's urban garden hidden behind a Victorian house in Bangor, a grapevine-draped pergola cast stripes of light and shade across the neighbouring pond, while vista after vista unfolded at Daphne McCartney's woodland garden on a mountain overlooking the River Foyle.

Judge Averil Milligan commented: "It was lovely to be able to visit some of the gardens and get a feel for the passion to garden and the stories from the owners. The level of detail was just amazing, as was the standard of care and artistic work. I was delighted to see composting, vegetable plots and space for wildlife with log piles and wildflowers too."

Greenmount horticulture lecturer David Dowd added: "The gardening skills displayed by all the entrants were really impressive. It was great to see how their lives influenced their gardens."

The winners will be announced next week.

Our 12 blooming lovelies shortlisted for awards

Small urban gardens

Miss Elizabeth Mackay, Belfast

Shrub-lined courtyard garden with vivid begonias and a jewel-hued island bed.

Carol and Brian Mackey, Dromore

Courtyard garden crammed with height and colour, bringing summer into the house.

Shirley McKigney, Ballymena

Long, narrow terrace back garden with a wealth of unusual plants.

Urban gardens

Denis Boal, Bangor

Much-loved urban oasis with orchard trees, pergola walks draped in grapevines, pond and veg patch.

Victor and Roz Henry, Newtownards

Glorious suburban back garden filled with colour, height and jungle planting.

James Logan, Portstewart

Moorish-inspired haven featuring a central rill flanked by scented roses.

Small country gardens

Barry and Helen Crawford, Newtownards

Series of garden rooms tempting visitors to explore a tranquil space on the Ards Peninsula.

Sean Palmer, Loughinisland

Intriguing maze of blossom-filled drystone walls created from a former horse lane

Mike Hartwell, Killyleagh

Magical haven of flowers, woodland and prairie planting filled with endless fascinating nooks.

Large country garden

Mrs Gerry Wilson, Lisburn

Stunning labour of love featuring a rich collection of mature trees, shrubs and vistas highlighting vivid blooms.

Jim and Hilary Rafferty, Glenwherry

Spectacular garden set in the Co Antrim hills, centring on a restored millrace and millpond teeming with frogs and trout.

Daphne and Andrew McCartney, Newbuildings

Spectacular rural retreat overlooking the River Foyle, with a maze of woodland paths where you can lose yourself.

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