A RECORD number of gardens were entered into this year's Melplash Agricultural Society's Garden Competition and the pick of the crop belongs to Catherine and Nigel Lee of Salway Ash.

Judged the best overall garden, the couple will be presented with the Alfie Parker and Jimmy Watts Memorial Cup at this year's Melplash Show next month.

Judges said that the Lees, who also won the Medium Garden class, were “passionate and skilful owners who have lovingly created a homely and friendly garden that not only fulfils the need to be productive and practical but which also provides a relaxing and beautiful outdoor space for all the family to enjoy.

“Attention to detail, careful planning and execution, too balance between hard and soft landscaping, skill in propagation and care of plants all resulted in an outstanding garden with no pretensions or faults.

“This garden gives you a friendly, nourishing hug. It's like a Mars Bar.. it helps you work, rest and play!”

This year the competition, in its 20th year, was judged by last year's winners of the medium and small garden sections, Elizabeth Romana Smith from Ryall and Liz Hampson from Beaminster, assisted by the Society's President, Cleeves Palmer, and his wife Edwina.

The competition was first established 20 years ago by Cleeves Palmer, who said: “I thought it was a great idea to have an award that recognised the time and effort that goes into making a beautiful and productive garden, and we certainly saw some wonderful examples this year. It is excellent to see that the competition has become a significant date in the local gardeners' diary!”

Commenting on this year's competition, which also featured a new allotment competition, the Society's Horticultural Section Chairman, Peter Yeates, said: “Every year it is a real treat to have an excuse to go into other people's gardens. It is great to see the pride, skill and effort that is taken.

“The number and standard of entries this year was extremely high, and I did not envy the judges having to decide the winners.

“A huge thank you to all those that entered, and in particular to the judges, Elizabeth Smith and Liz Hampson, who not only had the hard task of judging but have also produced a detailed summary on each of the gardens judged.”

The prizes will be awarded at this year's Melplash Show on Thursday August 22, in the Horticultural tent at 4.15pm. Photographs of the winning gardens with judges' comments will also be on display.

Full list of winners:

Best Overall Garden - Nigel and Catherine Lee, Salway Ash.

Large Garden (the Fowler Rose Bowl) - First- Maggie Dilley and Ray Glithero, Morecombelake, joint second - Steve Griffith, Swyre and Jason Smith, Mangerton.

Medium Garden (the Pitcher Trophy), First -Nigel and Catherine Lee, second - Mrs Corson, Stoke Abbot, third - Joyce Newton, Bothenhampton.

Small Garden (the Melplash Agricultural Society Shield) - Joint first Marcia and Eric Peel, Burton Bradstock and Linda Lambert, West Allington, third - Val Bartlett, Bridport.

Allotments - Joint first - Daniel Broom, Plot 4, Community Orchard, Bridport and Donald Joliffe, Southover Allotments, Burton Bradstock, third - Mr and Mrs Cox, West Allington. Allotments.