Ray and Colin's blooming marvellous win!

Gardening pals Ray Chaytor, 90, and 93-year-old Colin Shaw proudly clutch their awards for transforming a communal area into a stunning garden for residents at our Sleekburn House retirement living property in Bedlington Station.

The duo devoted dozens of hours potting and planting the outdoor area – a floral splash of colour which caught the eye of judges at the East Bedlington Parish Council Garden Competition, so much so that they presented them with a special award for outstanding effort as well as a highly commended accolade in the competition’s Best Back Yard Category.

Ray put all his knowledge gained during 50 years as head gardener at Hartford Hall gardens in Bedlington to work at Sleekburn House where he and Colin live.

They’ve known each other for 75 years, and used their friendship to work well together throughout the scorching summer and produce a garden packed with 32 plants including petunias, begonias, scabiosas, clematis and a rare Chilean glory flower. Colin takes particular pride in the growth of the Metasequoia tree, native to China, now thriving in Bedlington.

The garden is a huge asset for all residents to enjoy, with seated areas for them to take in the colour and wildlife.

Ray said: “I was quite surprised to get the award, I knew the garden had gone well but not that well. Me and Colin have known each other since we were 15 and then we went our separate ways in life. The first year I worked on my own to plant the garden but it was great to see Colin move in.

“There was nothing here originally, just four bare walls and that’s when I decided to plant it up.”

Colin said: “I was just doing the watering as Ray was doing the planting. I think it’s a first class job what Ray has done.”

A trophy and certificates are now proudly displayed in their flats as official recognition of their efforts.

Parish council judges told Ray and Colin in a letter: “Councillors have asked us to thank you for allowing them the pleasure of visiting your garden.

“The judging panel reported that the entries this year have been exceptional. We’re delighted to inform you that your entry has been judged as highly commended and the judges have awarded a special award for outstanding effort.”