• (L-R) Amy Porter, ENGIE's CSR Manager, Albert Copus and Lisa Cotton of Gentoo with tenants Cail and Yvonne Rowntree

Budding gardeners blossom in Gentoo’s annual gardening competition

We once again urged people across Sunderland to pull on their gardening gloves and show pride in their community.

Our Give it a Grow gardening competition encourages tenants and local schools to use their horticultural skills to help the environment and improve the appearance of the community.

Now in its fourth year, the competition is part of our commitment to inspire people to make a positive difference in the area they live.

Taking first prize for the ‘Best Garden’ are Gentoo customers, Mr Cail and Mrs Yvonne Rowntree. The husband and wife duo’s love of gardening grew four years ago when they started to produce their own vegetables.

Mr Rowntree, said: “Lisa (Gentoo’s Neighbourhood Co-ordinator) put us forward and I’m proud as punch of my wife for all that she’s done.”

The Rowntree’s impressed the judges with their colourful, and thoughtful, garden. Every flower and decoration has a story or is linked to a family member or friend. Including an enchanting fairy garden which boasts an abundance of fairies, gnomes and toadstools.

Mrs Rowntree recalls what inspired her love of gardening: “When I was younger, I’d visit my nana and grandad and the smell of sweet peas when you’d walk up their garden path was beautiful. I always wanted the same.”

Pupils at St Mary’s R.C Primary School are also celebrating after scooping first place for their entry in the ‘Best School Garden/Greenhouse’ category. Judges from Gentoo and this year’s Give it a Grow sponsor, ENGIE, were treated to a tour of the garden from pupils in the school’s garden club. The children’s knowledge of flower names impressed the judges, as did their creative display of planters, chairs, bird boxes and tables made from recycled items.

Amy Porter, Albert Copus, Lynne Redfern and St Mary's R.C. Primary School pupils

Mrs Siobhan Carton, Deputy Head teacher of St Mary’s R.C Primary School, said: “We’re very proud of our school grounds and we have two great groups of children who work weekly right through the year to make our garden look good. They propagate their own seeds and take cuttings, and grow beans, potatoes and carrots - so we’re very self-sufficient and we want the children to know that contributes to their wellbeing.

“Lynne Redfern volunteers her time in the garden and works so hard with the pupils. It’s so special for the children to have won and to have their hard work acknowledged.”

Michelle Meldrum, Executive Director (Operations), Gentoo said: “At Gentoo, we are passionate about encouraging people to take pride in their community.

“Gardening is something all ages can get involved in and enjoy, whilst improving both physical and mental wellbeing.

“We had a lot of interest in this year’s competition and I’d like to say well done to each and every person that entered. Give it a Grow is a great way to bring the community together and we love to see people show pride in our city.”

Amy Porter, CSR Manager at ENGIE, said: “As a business, we’re focused on working with partners, like Gentoo, to improve the environment we live in and it’s great to support such a fun project like this – everyone can get involved and it has really helped to transform communities and neighbourhoods across Sunderland.”

“It was a pleasure to be asked to help with the judging and see such wonderful gardens and community areas. Everyone has worked so hard and it was extremely difficult to pick the winners.”

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: