A WOMAN who has used her love of gardening to support a number of charities for more than 25 years has been awarded with a British Empire Medal (BEM).

At a ceremony at Bournemouth Town Hall, Penny Slade was presented with the accolade for voluntary services by the Lord Lieutenant of Dorset, Angus Campbell.

Among the guests present at the proud occasion were Sue Dennett, of Caring Canines, who nominated Penny for the award, and Chris Colledge, chairman of Bournemouth in Bloom.

Penny has worked as a volunteer for a number of charities including the National Garden Scheme (NGS), Holton Lee, and Contact the Elderly.

She is also a judge for Bournemouth in Bloom and Westbourne in Bloom and is a schools co-ordinator for the latter. The role involves encouraging young people to enjoy and participate in various aspects of horticulture.

Before being presented with the BEM, the Lord Lieutenant described Penny’s voluntary work as “outstanding” and praised her for the “tremendous effort” she had made for charities over the years.

“She based her support for charity on her gardening skills and used that as a vehicle to support charities such as Macmillan and Marie Curie,” he said.

Speaking after the ceremony, Penny said it was a “great honour and surprise” to be awarded the medal.

“You do all these things for charity and you never expect anyone to have noticed you doing it,” she said.

Sue explained why she nominated Penny for the award.

“I’ve known Penny since I was really young because her husband was my doctor. I was lucky enough to be nominated for this award, and in some of the paper work that came through it suggested to nominate someone else.

“I knew how much Penny had done in a voluntary capacity for so many years, and she absolutely deserves it.”

When Penny opened her Bournemouth garden to the public for NGS, she raised thousands of pounds for the society’s charities and saw many people admire her beautiful garden in Roslin Road South in Talbot Woods.

In 2011, she closed her gates for the final time and moved out of her home and into a flat for a new stage in her life.

As well as her work for Bournemouth and Westbourne in Bloom, she volunteers for Holton Lee, which provides residential holidays for disabled adults.

She is also a driver for Contact the Elderly, a national organisation, and takes elderly people out to tea each month.