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Perfectionist digs deep for high five in Inverness Courier's Garden of the Year contest

By Val Sweeney

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A COLOURFUL combination of flowers and plants crammed into every available space has won a retired upholsterer the top title in the Inverness Courier’s Garden of the Year competition for a fifth time.

Although he acknowledged it has been a difficult season, Alastair Munro impressed the judges with the eye-catching displays in his garden in Birchwood Place, Inshes Wood.

He was announced overall winner as well as the winner of the small garden category during a reception at the Culloden Battlefield visitor centre for all the finalists.

The winner of the medium-size garden category was June King of Bunchrew while John and Rosanna Clegg, of Aultgowrie Mill near Muir of Ord, won the large garden section.

The judges, who visited the finalists’ gardens in August, included TV presenter Carole Baxter, Raoul Curtis-Machin, the National Trust for Scotland’s (NTS) operations manager for Culloden Battlefield and Jacky Brookes, the NTS regional marketing consultant for the north west and islands.

They were joined by Emma Glass, events manager for Scottish Provincial Press (SPP) and chief reporter Val Sweeney.

Mr Munro was delighted to win the top title for a fifth time.

“It has been a very difficult year because of the weather but it is worth it,” said Mr Munro who is from a line of keen amateur gardeners.

“My father was a great gardener and I learned a lot of tips from him when I used to help when I was young and my grandfather also had a spectacular garden down at the viaduct at Culloden Moor.

Mr Munro admitted to being “a bit of a perfectionist”.

“Sometimes I spend a few hours on it but I get very tired as I am on a lot of medication for various illnesses,” he said.

“If I am having a good day and not lethargic, I might manage a wee bit more.”

First-time entrant June King impressed the judges with quirky features such as a giant chess set to conceal a septic tank, teapots recycled as bird feeders and high heel shoes used as planters in her sloping garden with spectacular views overlooking the Beauly Firth.

Mrs King entered as a tribute to her late husband who had built a rockery in the garden.

Her approach was that everything did not have to be perfect in the garden.

“It is a fun place,” she said. “It is a relaxing place. Sometimes, it is where I sit and gather my thoughts.

“I love the garden. It helps me heal.”

Botanist Rosanna Clegg was delighted to win the large garden section after her husband initially submitted the entry on her behalf without her knowledge.

“I am absolutely thrilled,” said Mrs Clegg whose garden includes a hay meadow, woodland walk and river, a vegetable area and coloured zoned areas.

“With my biological background and love of the outdoors, the garden is very wildlife-orientated.

“I would rather be in my garden than anywhere else in the world.”

The other finalists were David Beatty, of Bught Drive, Inverness (small garden), Marie Macdonald, of Westfield Avenue, Westhill (medium garden) and Anne Macdonald, of Kiltarlity (large garden).

Judge Ms Brookes said the panel had faced a tough task.

“It was a difficult decision because of the high standards in the gardens,” she said.

“We were also delighted to welcome many new entrants this year.”

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