THE overall winner of this year?s Henley in Bloom awards says she enjoys other people appreciating her hard work.
Heather Durrant, of Gainsborough Hill, scooped the top prize after winning the baskets and containers category, for which she was awarded silver gilt, as well as three second prizes and a third.
?I was gobsmacked because I didn?t expect to win but I am thrilled to bits,? she said.
?Everyone knows I love my garden. I am so lucky having this corner by a walkway because people pass it all the time. Even strangers have stopped to take photographs of my sunflowers ? the kids love them.?
The 67-year-old mother-of-seven entered the awards for the first time last year and picked up three prizes.
Mrs Durrant, a retired housekeeper who lives with her German shepherd Jazz, thinks her garden?s success is down to its ?feelgood factor?.
?Even my son Tom would come over in the summer and say it was like a jungle out there because there was so much colour,? she said.
She suffers with arthritis in her hands and experiences a recurring pain in her thumb from a car accident a few years ago but doesn?t let this stop her enjoying her hobby.
Her neighbours, Duncan and Hazel Birrell, help her with some of the tasks she can?t do, including installing stronger baskets for her hanging baskets.
The couple also put a ?well done? sign on her front gate after her win.
Mrs Durrant collected her prizes at a joint Henley in Bloom and Henley Allotments? Association awards ceremony at the town hall on Thursday last week. Town councillor Kellie Hinton, who chairs the Henley in Bloom committee, hosted the event.
The prizes were presented by Henley Standard editor Simon Bradshaw, Simon and Sue Gayle, of Southern Plant Hire, and Fiona Pyle, of Hotel du Vin, whose companies sponsor the awards, singer Vince Hill, from Shiplake, who is a keen gardener, and Henley Mayor Stefan Gawrysiak.
The front garden (lawned garden) category was won by last year?s overall winner Leah Gomersall, of Luker Avenue, who was awarded silver gilt. Runner-up Mrs Durrant received silver.
The front garden (patio) winner was Jackie Durose, of Swiss Farm, who was awarded silver gilt. Runner-up was Biddy Hume-Humphreys, of Park Road, who received silver and third place went to David Eggleton, of Gainsborough Road, with bronze.
The best baskets and containers category was won by Mrs Durrant, who was awarded silver gilt, with Ms Durose second with silver and Geoffrey Chipp, of Reading Road, third with bronze.
The back gardens winners were Mr Eggleton?s parents, Anne and Chris, of Gainsborough Crescent, who were awarded gold. Cllr Hinton said she would be a ?paying customer? if the couple?s garden was open to the public.
Second place was awarded to Mrs Gomersall, who received silver gilt, and Mrs Durrant was third with silver.
This year?s themed category ? which was gold to mark Henley?s success in the Britain in Bloom competition last year ? was won by Mrs Hume-Humphreys with silver gilt. Mrs Durrant finished second and was awarded silver gilt and Geoff Childs picked up third place with bronze.
The Pride in Your Place award was presented to the Gainsborough Estate and collected by David Eggleton, co-founder of the new residents? association. He then presented a special award to Elizabeth Hodgkin, who runs Henley in Bloom?s ?gardening buddies? in recognition of her work ? a golden trowel.
The Three Horseshoes in Reading Road won the ?boozers in bloom? category for the second year running.
The Angel on the Bridge was second and the Saracen?s Head in Greys Road was highly commended. A special mention was made of the Victoria in Market Place.
The inaugural pub back gardens award was won by the Bird in Hand in Greys Road.
Ms Hinton praised the pub?s begonias, aviary and koi carp pond.
The Row Barge in West Street was runner-up and third place went to the Saracen?s Head. The Three Tuns in Market Place received a special mention.
La Bodega in Hart Street won the award for the best floral display by a restaurant for the sixth year running. The restaurant was described as a ?treasure of Henley? and was singled out for praise by the national and regional In Bloom judges during their tours of the town.
The Henley Brew House was second and Strada in Bell Street and the Chocolate Theatre Café in Thames Side were given special mentions.
The Christ Church Centre in Reading Road won the community garden maintained by residents category. The Over-60s Club was runner-up with silver.
Bowling Court won the category for the community garden that is maintained professionally and was awarded silver gilt. Runner-up was Chiltern Ends care home with bronze.
The gardening buddy of the year was Viv Greenwood.
Best allotment was awarded to Paul Gillbard (Greencroft) and Roger Goodall (Waterman?s).
Best newcomer went to Martin Bidlake-Corser (Greencroft) and Liz Fielding-Smith (Waterman?s).
The inaugural community award, which is presented to an allotment holder who goes beyond the call of duty, was awarded to Graham Jones (Greencroft) and Mick Blackall (Waterman?s).
Click here to view our Henley in Bloom photo gallery