THE Daily Echo’s former gardening expert, who helped readers make the most of their blooms for 16 years, has died.

John Etheridge began his 30-year career at the Echo in 1961 as an advertising representative when the offices were based in Above Bar, Southampton.

But while he stayed in that role throughout his time at the paper his passion for gardening soon saw him hired as the paper’s gardening correspondent as well.

Over the years he encouraged green-fingered readers to make the most of their gardens, advising when best to plant bulbs and how to tackle the harsh English weather.

John, whose dad Charles also worked for the Daily Echo, retired in 1990 to spend more time in his garden at his home in Holybrook Avenue, Shirley, with his wife Audrey, who died after 57 years of marriage together.

He died on January 25, aged 85, after a five-month battle with cancer. He leaves four children, three grandchildren and one great-grandson.

His daughter Julie said: “He was a lovely man who loved his garden and his family.”