The garden industry still has much to gain from Britain in Bloom, according to latest RHS research, despite cuts causing local authority bedding schemes to fall by the wayside in recent years.
The RHS, which has run the annual scheme since 2002, is promoting the 50th year of the competition at the RHS Chelsea (20-24 May) and RHS Hampton Court Palace (8-13 July) Flower Shows this year.
Around 2,100 communities take part each year, with more than 200,000 volunteers involved. The RHS surveyed participants and found that they plant three million bulbs each year as well as 185,000 trees and 718,000 shrubs. More than half of them now put in "sustainable" plants rather than seasonal bedding.
RHS Council member Jon Wheatley of Stonebarn Landscapes, a designer and dahlia grower, is behind features for Chelsea, Gardening Scotland (in association with Beautiful Fife) and Hampton Court Palace shows celebrating 50 years of Britain in Bloom. The Sun is co-sponsoring the Chelsea garden and Alan Titchmarsh is also designing a Chelsea In Bloom garden.
Wheatley's 400sq m Hampton Court feature will be "all about environment and community involvement at its best and promises to be something special", he said.
Britain In Bloom's impact is "undervalued", particularly as local authorities pull out of the competition, Wheatley added. "Bloom is underestimated in terms of its impact to the trade," he said. "Everyone involved is buying plants and that's got to be good for the industry."
Wales in Bloom chairman Jim Goodwin exhibited a show feature for the 50th anniversary at the RHS Cardiff Flower Show last month (11-13 April), kicking-off a series of In Bloom gardens at shows nationwide.
"The Welsh Assembly is not giving us money any more so we now charge £50-£250 for entry," said Goodwin. "We've cut classes from 20 to 10, dropping those like railway stations and schools, and we have no cities after Wrexham pulled out.
"Cardiff, Newport and Swansea all pulled out because of financial pressure, but we have lots of towns like Chepstow and Abergavenny and more It's Your Neighbourhood community groups. Local authorities are unlikely to return. It's more community-based now."
Wales in Bloom, which had 42 entries in 2013, is now part of the Bloom Federation of the RHS and 16 Britain in Bloom groups working jointly with the RHS to promote the competition.
Goodwin said the Titchmarsh garden at Chelsea will "give a lot of publicity" to the show and campaign. But he added that his In Bloom colleague Wheatley's Chelsea In Bloom garden has "got overridden by personality" after the RHS asked Titchmarsh to design on the same theme as the previously announced Wheatley garden.
- The impact report is available at www.rhs.org.uk/gardening/ community-gardening/pdf/britain-in-bloom-impact-report.
The number of plants and bulbs planted each year by Britain in Bloom and It's Your Neighbourhood community groups - 21.6 million.