COMPETITION TIME! Greening Mildura member April Fuda and president, Gail Mottram, pictured in the garden of Mildura residents John and Gwenda Dean, are calling on local green thumbs to consider entering their garden in this year’s third annual Greening Mildura Garden Competition. Photo: PAUL MENSCH

MILDURA’S garden enthusiasts will have the chance to show off their green thumbs and be recognised later this year, as part of the third annual Greening Mildura Garden Competition.

The competition is the brainchild of local environmental group Greening Mildura, with the group established in 2013 with the aim to offer opportunities for the community to get involved in the planting, health and well-being of trees in the region.

The inaugural competition was launched in 2015 in partnership with Mildura Rural City Council, and sees community members nominate their own garden, or be nominated by a third party.

Categories open to the public in 2017 include Best Home Garden (from courtyards to rural properties), Best School Garden and Best Aged Care Facility Garden, while the Greening Mildura Team will choose the Best Commercial Garden and the Best Street in the region.

“We are very proud to hold this competition again as it has been such a great success over the past two years,” Greening Mildura president, Gail Mottram, said. “It’s a fantastic opportunity to acknowledge and reward the hard work it takes to create a beautiful garden.”

The Greening Mildura team and a representative from Mildura Rural City Council will form the judging panel, and will be joined by renowned ABC Gardening Australia presenter, Sophie Thomson.

Ms Thomson will visit Mildura to select the winners of the Best School Garden and Best Aged Care Facility Garden categories, while also awarding all winners at an official Awards Ceremony, scheduled to take place on Thursday, October 12, from 10.30am at Mildura Arts Centre.

Entries for the 2017 Greening Mildura Garden Competition open Friday, September 1, and close Friday, September 22, with entry forms to be available at the Alfred Deakin Centre.

A minimum of five photos of the nominated garden has to accompany each entry, with Ms Mottram encouraging the public to nominate neighbours, friends and family who have created beautiful gardens.

“The gardens don’t have to be big or elaborate to enter, we just want people to show us the gardens they are proud of, this could mean nominating a friend’s garden that you love or your own garden that brings you joy,” she said.

Over the past five years they have created a garden around the old stone cottage on what was once a bare paddock, with the Patch including numerous contained spaces as well as a fully productive organic vegie patch, more than 100 fruit and nut trees and what Ms Thomson hopes will one day be a climate-compatible ornamental garden.

Ms Thomsom describes herself as an “obsessive-compulsive gardener” who, were it not for the demands of her career and family, would spend every day in the garden.

She is passionate about the role gardening can play in people’s lives as a stress reliever, and is convinced that gardening has a vital role to play in individual and community health.

Ms Thomson is an advocate for the worldwide Nature Play movement, which helps kids develop a life-long connection with nature, and strongly believes in creating green backyards and green open spaces where kids can play freely, reducing their screen time in favour of ‘green time’.

Twice a year she opens Sophie’s Patch to thousands of visitors, who come to experience her gardening prowess first-hand, while also consulting to a variety of public, commercial and domestic South Australian gardens, with a strong focus on appropriate plant selection.

She also encourages clients to develop water-wise, climate-compatible gardens that display colour all-year round.