Gentoo urged people across Sunderland to pull on their gardening gloves and show pride in their community by running its Give it a Grow gardening competition.

The housing association’s annual competition encourages its tenants and local schools to use their horticultural skills to help the environment and improve the appearance of the community.

The competition, now in its third year, is ran by Gentoo as part of its commitment to inspire people to make a positive difference in their community.

Taking first prize for the ‘Most Improved and Interesting Garden’ was Gentoo customer, Mr Alan Bradley of Houghton-le-Spring for his beautifully decorated garden, overflowing with vibrant geraniums, begonias, fuschias and sunflowers.

Mr Bradley said: “I didn’t think an amateur had any chance of winning – it feels absolutely brilliant, it’s made my year.”

Pupils at Ryhope Infant School are also celebrating after scooping first place for their entry in the Best School Garden/Greenhouse category.

The school has been developing its garden since 2012 and pupils impressed the judges with their quirky allotment, which includes beautiful hanging baskets, a greenhouse made from more than 1,000 plastic bottles, a minibeast hotel, and a hoover which was refabricated to make a flower planter.

Miss Susan Reed, Headteacher of Ryhope Infant School said: “It feels absolutely fantastic to win the competition and it is testament to the pupils’ hard work.

“The children love coming outside and do a lot of their curriculum work in the garden. They’re absolutely thrilled that they’ve won the competition.”

Michelle Meldrum, Executive Director (Operations), Gentoo said: “At Gentoo, we believe in encouraging people to have pride in their local community.

“Gardening has so many benefits and can improve our physical, psychological and social health and is a great way to bring people together.

“Give it a Grow is one of the many ways we invest in communities and we hope to continue inspiring people to make a positive difference in our city.”

Gentoo offers Aspire Grants of up to £500 to support a range of activities for voluntary, community groups and community-led causes throughout Sunderland. For further information about how to apply, visit: www.gentoogroup.com

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