Torbay Council natural environment officer Neil Coish said while formal flower beds are synonymous with the town they are "largely an accident of history". Planted by the Victorians to mitigate the harsh living conditions of the poor, beds have become increasingly hard to manage with limited resources.
Traditional amenity planting is no longer sustainable and neither does it fulfil the needs of the public in the 21st century, said Coish. "With its emphasis on mown grass ... seasonal bedding and mono-planting, it is now evident that civic pride comes with a huge unaffordable environmental and economic cost. Bedding plants especially are resource hungry, requiring luxurious levels of heat and water."
Torbay Council's new strategy is called "managed complexity". The Royal Terrace Gardens now boast prairie planting while flower beds at the Abbey Park border have been replaced with a year-round scheme including winter-flowering shrubs. Flower meadows are proving popular and provide benefits for wildlife.
The remaining flower beds are being concentrated around suitable architecture and landscapes for maximum impact. Although this rationalisation is "drastic" it is "one of the best long-term solutions we have that ensures a future for the remaining bedding displays", said Coish.
He added: "Torbay's Natural Environment team is confident these new schemes will come to be appreciated for the multiple long-term benefits that they bring."