A CHAMPION gardener received the Royal seal of approval when his prize-winning flowers took a top award at a prestigious garden show.
John Peace won the silver gilt award after his eye-catching display of chrysanthemums were put on display at the Chelsea Flower Show.
The 53-year-old, who is Blackhall-based Monk Hesleden Parish Council’s parks and facilities manager, was honoured to receive the accolade on behalf of the National Chrysanthemum Society, where he is floral and promotions manager and has been a member for 20 years.
His award-winning display earned him national acclaim.
John, who is the society’s National Chrysanthemum Champion after an unbeaten 20-year record, said he was honoured to have received the accolade at the show, which was visited by up to 157,000 people, including the Queen, various celebrities and people from as far as the USA and Australia.
He was in touching distance of Queen Elizabeth at the floral extravaganza.
The dad-of-two, who has won two silver gilt awards previously at the Royal Horticultural Society’s Tatton Park Flower Show, said: “It’s an honour for anybody to get an award at the Chelsea Flower Show.
“But it’s three silvers too many - I want gold. I will get it next year.
“We were very unlucky not to get gold, it was very close. “My inspiration was just to make an impact and create a fantastic display of chrysanthemums for people to see.”
John, who is granddad to three-year-old Mollie Matthews, has made it his mission to bring chrysanthemums to the public’s attention.
He said: “It’s about trying to push chrysanthemums to the forefront.
“Chelsea is the world’s premier garden show so we put a display of chrysanthemums together to try and raise people’s awareness of them and hopefully get more members for our society, which has 1,500 people.”
John, who is dad to Anthony, 31, and Danny, 21, worked on the striking 24ft by 12ft piece with his wife Allison, 49, and fellow society members Barry and Daphne Hogg, from Doncaster and Vinny and Joan Aldred, from Chesterfield in Derbyshire.
John, of Briardene Way, Easington Colliery, was a miner at Easington pit for 17 years before being made redundant.
He then trained in horticulture at Houghall College in Durham, before taking up the position with Monk Hesleden Parish Council 18 years ago.
His love of chrysanthemums followed on from a passion of gardening he shared with his father, also John, who died from cancer five years ago, aged 73.
John, who spent most of last week at the Chelsea show before returning to dismantle his exhibition on Saturday, said the secret to his success was “a good effort”.