Across the country nearly 70 community gardening groups are battling it out to be crowned winner of the Royal Horticultural Society’s Britain in Bloom awards.
Five communities – Castlecaulfield, Durham, Perth, Kingsbridge and St Helier – are competing in the Champion of Champions category.
“All five are brilliant examples of how community gardening can bring tremendous benefits to both the environment and the local community,” says RHS judge Jon Wheatley,
The winner will be announced on 26 October 2019.
Castlecaulfield, Northern Ireland
The village has ramped up its green credentials by sowing wildflower meadows and revamping a woodland conservation area with the help of the Eco Buddie youth group.
The walled garden, a cross-community project in development since 2010, is a hub for food growing and workshops, and where the Eco Buddies meet every week before taking part in projects throughout the village to boost biodiversity.
“Taking part has brought about a love of where we live and a sense of wellbeing in the village, as everyone has made their contribution,” says Elizabeth Burrows, treasurer of the Castlecaulfield Horticultural Society.
The historic city has wowed visitors with its spectacular 3D floral displays and, on many of its roundabouts, traditional bedding plants have been swapped for pollinator-friendly wildflowers.
“More and more Bloom partners are joining our campaign each year, and the benefits to all ages, from three to 93, are noticeable, including improving health and wellbeing while supporting learning and qualifications,” say Oliver Sherratt, Chairman of Durham in Bloom.
Volunteers celebrated the 800th anniversary of the Devon market town being granted a Royal Charter, weaving a willow arch in the town square’s main bed which bursts with plants loved by bees. Other floral features nod to the area’s heritage, including a schooner sailing ship once built in the town.
“This year we have celebrated our local wildlife, and in particular bees and pollinators,” says Graham Price, Chairman of Kingsbridge in Bloom.
“The main display featured a willow arch and pollinator wildflowers sown by the children, interspersed with sustainable planting, bee hives and butterfly sculptures made by our local community groups. Taking part has had a massive impact on our community. It gives us the incentive to keep the town attractive and vibrant, and has brought the whole community together.”
Volunteers in Perth maintain the flagship heather collection, featuring 500 varieties, and the city has gone big on eliminating plastic and other waste with awareness-raising sculptures and river litter picks by kayak.
“Our most ambitious project this year is on tackling local (and global) environmental problems,” says John Summers OBE, Chairman of Beautiful Perth.
“We are leading on a project providing community groups with facilities, equipment and training to encourage reuse and upcycling, to increase recycling and to tackle food waste and food poverty. We are also working with local businesses to increase resource efficiency and develop a circular economy. The project is now in its third year, and we are confident it will leave a lasting legacy in Perth.”
Jersey’s capital has made the most of its southern climes with exotic-style planting, moveable pop-up allotments and upcycled planters made by schools from plastic collected during clean-ups at the beach.
“It shows what ordinary people can do to improve their own area, and to improve the environment and pull together,” says Mary Ayling Phillips, member of West of Town Community Association.
“Growing fruit and vegetables which members of the public could help themselves to, really felt like a great initiative to get fresh produce to those in need.”
All photographs courtesy Royal Horticultural Society