The most wildlife-welcoming gardens were cherry-picked by judges at Dorset Wildlife Trust’s annual Wildlife Friendly Garden Awards.

Green-fingered gardeners gathered at Castle Gardens in Sherborne as the awards, sponsored by The Gardens Group, were presented to the best gardens for local bees, butterflies and birds. 

Mike Burks, managing director of The Gardens Group, said: “This year we saw more life and entries than ever before, and it’s an absolute pleasure to see how this way of gardening is progressing among all ages and us wildlife friendly gardeners no longer have to hide in the dark.”

This year’s competition saw a bumper crop of entries with over 75 gardens, including schools, visitor centres, patios and meadows, vying for a prize.  

Category’s included best small, medium and large gardens as well as best gardens in rented accommodation and best community gardens.

“Each year the bar is raised even higher and the entrants into the competition get more creative and sophisticated in their efforts to provide vital corridors for our wildlife,” said Mr Burks.

The competition also saw a high number of entries from younger gardeners, with Charlie Giltrow, 10, who picked up a Highly Commended in the Small Garden category, becoming the youngest contender ever to enter.

He said: “When I heard my name read out as a winner in my category I was so excited. My ambition has always been to become a vet, so ever since we moved into our house two years ago, my sisters and I have been working hard to transform the concrete garden into a haven for birds, frogs, bees and bugs.” 

Author and wildlife gardening guru, Kate Bradbury was on hand to provide useful advice and tips on how to welcome wildlife into any sized garden.

The RHS qualified gardener revealed how she transformed a small basement flat garden in Brighton filled with decking and concrete and not a glimpse of wildlife in sight, into a haven for local bees, butterflies and birds.

This year’s winners were Diana Guy from Wimborne for the best large garden, Christine Rashleigh-Berry from Preston for best medium garden and Lucy Daisy Jenkins from Wimborne for the best small garden.

Sarah Jane Buckle from Poole took home the prize for best garden in rented accommodation and Michael House bagged best community garden with Grosvenor Gardens in Boscombe.

Mr Burks said: “I thoroughly enjoy visiting these gardens during the judging process and seeing the difference these wonderful havens are making to the county’s wildlife, I hope everyone left feeling proud of their efforts and inspired to keep it up.”