GARDENERS turned a new leaf on Friday when their long-standing leader and friend stepped down as chairman of Thornbury in Bloom.

Sue Aitken, owner of Thornbury Garden Shop, passed on the baton to fellow committee member Guy Rawlinson after five years at the helm of the ace team of landscapers.

Under her leadership, Thornbury won four consecutive South West in Bloom gold medals, two national Britain in Bloom awards and scooped the coveted Champion of Champions title at the Royal Horticultural Society's (RHS) select invitation-only competition.

Mrs Aitken, who will remain a member of the Thornbury in Bloom in committee, said standing down was a difficult decision but a necessary one.

"I would have liked to stay on but there comes a point when an organisation needs fresh blood," she said.

"It has been absolutely fantastic. I'm really sad to have to give it up. We won every year that we entered the South West competition. We've done pretty well over the past five years. It was a good time to stand down."

She joined the team in 2005 and two years later she was elected chairman.

"The new chairman will do very well. It is difficult in the first year to know what needs to be done, so we will be there to give him support. Somebody else will have to do the nagging now."

Her successor, town Cllr Guy Rawlinson, said he was delighted to follow in her footsteps.

"I am proud to represent such an important group in Thornbury," he told the Gazette.

"As a town we have achieved such a great deal, winning both regional and national Britain in Bloom competitions and this year winning gold in the Champion of Champions, the highest level attainable in the Britain in Bloom competition."

He praised the outgoing chairman for her dedication, drive and enthusiasm.

"Sue has been chairman for five years and in this time we have achieved so much due to her commitment, putting in so many hours in support of the cause and the town. She has often been seen watering troughs and baskets late into the evening."

A plaque marking the volunteers' achievements at the 2012 RHS awards will grace the facade of the Town Hall in the new year. Two plaques already front the building and represent the group's national victories in 2009 and 2011.