County Durham artists have filled a local gallery with a colourful profusion of nature-inspired artwork as preparations for a national horticulture competition step up a gear.

No.42 in Bishop Auckland is holding a special Bloom Exhibition, featuring works by local artists, all inspired by the theme of flowers, foliage and the natural world.

The exhibition coincides with a campaign by local horticultural group, Bishop Auckland and Coundon in Bloom to spruce up the area with colourful planting.  The group is taking part in the nationwide competition, Britain in Bloom and on 9 July judges will be in the town to inspect their efforts.

Running until 14 July, the Bloom Exhibition features intricate embroidered pieces, innovative mixed media, bold paintings, detailed photography and ingenious 3D pieces, all reflecting the breadth of inspiration to taken from the Bloom theme.

Among the 16 artists featured in the exhibition are Cagdas Debce, Abigail Lagden and Alison Gargett.

Cagdas, who lives in Shildon, works with wood to create sculptural artworks, his three pieces includes a gold cut out of Queen Elizabeth II, bedecked with a bright floral wreath.

Toft Hill resident, Abigail Lagden turned to art following a career within the field of forensic investigation. Now a full-time artist Abigail specialises in sculptural art and has created three rainbow-bright pieces, in honeycomb hexagons for the Bloom exhibition.

And Alison Gargett, from Neville’s Cross, Durham, who returned to her love for art after retirement, was inspired by her own love for gardens and flora to create two large canvases, a snapshot impression of a garden, in vivid splashes of oil paint, and a delicate turquoise piece on linen canvas.

Alison said: “When we look at gardens we often take in an overview, the colours and shapes, light and dark are seen as a whole. It is a brief but beautiful vision. Using patches of colours and blends I hope to reproduce a short snap vision of this.

“Working with No.42 has been great, it features some great artists and it’s lovely to be part of that.”

The Bloom Exhibition was officially opened by Nigel Bryson, Secretary of Bishop Auckland and Coundon in Bloom, at No.42, part of The Auckland Project.

As well as planting up eye catching floral displays and hanging baskets, the horticultural group works to transform the local area through litter picking, tidying derelict areas, maintaining planters and improving riverbanks.

Joy Allen, Chair of Bishop Auckland and Coundon in Bloom, said: “The bloom project has gone from strength to strength and I am delighted the town and surrounding villages are taking up the challenge and are transforming their local community whilst celebrating their history and heritage.

“The support from local business has been a real boost to the project and demonstrates the passion and pride we have for bloom in Bishop Auckland and Coundon.  We hope everyone will visit this marvellous exhibition and get actively involved in bloom themselves.”

Last year, the group was awarded a silver award for Bishop Auckland and Coundon, which is judged as one town area, and a silver gilt award for the town cemetery. And The Auckland Project, received a gold award for conservation work in the Deer Park.

This year, as well as hosting the Bloom Exhibition at No.42, The Auckland Project is supporting Bishop Auckland and Coundon in Bloom by filling planters in the market place with colourful blooms and sprucing up the garden area in front of Auckland Castle.

Liz Fisher, Engagement Director at The Auckland Project said: “We are always keen to be involved in Bishop Auckland and Coundon in Bloom because it’s not just about the judging and awards, it’s also about the community involvement and impact. If people are happy in the environment they live in, it can positively impact on their lifestyle and the area begins to thrive.

“We are starting to see that happen in this area, the seedling that was planted last year with this initiative is starting to grow, and in future years this will become established as a significant community event.”

The Bloom Exhibition will run at No.42, until Saturday, 14 July. The gallery, part of The Auckland Project is open from 10am- 5pm, Wednesday to Saturday.

For more information, visit aucklandcastle.org, follow The Auckland Project on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram or sign up to The Auckland Project’s monthly newsletter here, aucklandcastle.org/special-page/get-involved/

For regular updates on Bishop Auckland and Coundon in Bloom visit,  www.bloomtalk.org.uk, which features regular updates from the group’s contributors, featuring schools, churches, hotels, residents, artists and local businesses.