Best of municipal horticulture put forward for European competition

Edinburgh and Bournemouth chosen to represent the UK in this year's Entente Florale contest.

Bournemouth: representing UK - image: Bournemouth Borough Council
Bournemouth: representing UK - image: Bournemouth Borough Council

Green-space gardeners at either end Britain are busily preparing for VIP visitors from the continent as part of a pan-European drive to green urban environments.

Edinburgh and Bournemouth have both been chosen to represent the UK in this year's Entente Florale Europe competition, which judges municipal horticultural efforts in 19 towns and cities in 11 countries across the continent, after triumphing in Britain in Bloom 2013.

A judge from each country will tour Bournemouth on 8 August, scoring the town not only on its floral displays but also in areas such as sustainability, education and improving people's quality of life.

Nursery manager and horticultural officer Chris Evans, who also designs the town's floral displays, said it is "incredibly important for a tourist town" to be involved in both Britain in Bloom and the Entente Florale, which it won in 1995 but has not made it onto the shortlist since then.

Evans said he concentrates on coastal planting and colour schemes. Plants that need a lot of watering, for example, are not a good idea, he added.

Water is metered in Bournemouth and watering incurs a staff cost. Evans also said a lot of the planting has "taken a real hit" from strong winds over the winter.

"I don't go in for the normal run-of-the-mill thing," he explained. Most councils use 40 or 50 varieties but we have 700 or so. It does cause a lot of interest - our gardeners complain they just get asked lots of questions all the time."

Evans and his team are doing a lot more than making beautiful environments. They need to show the strengths of Bournemouth now and project its aims for the future, getting across a message of sustainability and encourage people to improve their gardens at home. An example is an ornamental bed full of edible plants.

The preparations take on the timbre of a military operation. "We've got to be ready months in advance to make sure everything is right on the day, even down to a mock judging trial. The most important thing is to get the route right, don't spread yourself too thin and what you do, do well."

The nursery grows a wide variety of bedding plants, some under contract for local towns, and Evans lamented the disappearing skill of designing and planting ornamental bedding schemes, something he said was part of our horticultural heritage. However, he said it is important to show that gardeners can maintain standards during cuts.

Entente Florale Greener towns and villages

The competition was founded in 1975, initially between Great Britain and France. Now there are 12 member countries.

It is supported by the International Association of Horticultural Producers as well as governments and horticultural bodies and associations in each country.

The overall aim of the competition is to improve communities' quality of life. It encourages the greening of towns and villages, parks development that is environmentally sensitive and educational and communication initiatives that promote environmental awareness.


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