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Spring sprouted early this year, bringing a bumper crop of nominations in our annual Beautiful Gardens contest.

Looking at gorgeous gardens is always a treat, but with almost 150 entries, choosing just a few was a challenge. We aimed for a variety of styles and sizes, finally selecting the following winners.

Here are samples from the winners' submitted photos. We'll cover one of their gardens in detail, with galleries by staff photographers, each month from October to April.

And a big thank-you to all of our readers who took time to submit nominations.