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Biddulph in Bloom – the secret of success

Biddulph in Bloom – the secret of success

Biddulph in Bloom in Staffordshire has been working to improve the environment for the community since 1991. The organisation currently has over 20 regular members and trustees, plus many additional volunteers who also support a range of activities from admin to planting to painting.

When Biddulph in Bloom was first set up, the main aim of the organisation was to regenerate the former coal mining town - and this remains the core aim almost 30 years later. Since its inception, the group’s achievements have been many, helping to transform the town’s public spaces for the better. Major projects include planting around 2,500 verge and street trees, creating flowerbeds and borders on five roundabouts, the installation of many floral containers, including sustainable self-watering planters, maintaining the community wildlife garden and planting thousands of floral bulbs across the town.

Going for gold - and getting it

Biddulph also has a long and successful history in the Britain in Bloom competition. They enter the Large Town category in the Heart of England region every year, achieving Overall Winner many times. As a result, Biddulph has represented their region in the national competition on numerous occasions.

They are also long-time customers of Amberol, using the company’s self-watering planters across the town to create the stunning floral displays that form such an important part of the town’s annual In Bloom entry.

2019 marked a triumphant year for Biddulph in Bloom when the town was awarded Gold in the national finals across all the sections of Horticultural Achievement, Environmental Responsibility and Community Participation.

How did they do it?

The town’s entry is all down to teamwork. However, Biddulph in Bloom is also fortunate to be chaired by Hilda Sheldon MBE who has many years of experience in the competition – so much so that Hilda was commended by the judges for being ‘the champion’ of Biddulph’s entry. As the judges acknowledged in their mark sheet, the story of Biddulph in Bloom has evolved from small beginnings to becoming stalwarts of the competition.

Britain in Bloom aims to involve people of all ages and from all walks of life and the Biddulph group work hard to make their work as inclusive as possible. Young people doing the Duke of Edinburgh or Citizen’s Award are welcomed and the support from local businesses and other organisations is highly valued by the group. In their 2019 visit, the judges particularly noted the positive involvement and impact of young people, two of whom were involved in the judges’ visit acting as timekeeper and portfolio producer. In addition, students from nearby Staffordshire University delivered the judging day presentation.

Praise from Britain in Bloom’s judges

The judges’ report stated: “It’s not often that the judges see young people carrying out such mature work,” commenting on the “first class” presentation. It was also favourably noted that the local press was involved at the end of the tour to help promote the group’s activities.

Britain in Bloom entries are judged across three key areas: Horticultural Achievement, Environment Improvement and Community Involvement. Biddulph scored highly across all three categories, achieving gold for each.

Horticulture:

The judges report cited a “very high standard of horticulture”. They were impressed by the scope and variety of the planting, from trees to display design. The judges also commended the group for growing their own plants in a polytunnel which was built in 2018 after the group received a donation via a legacy. The polytunnel is located on the group’s allotment.

Environment:

The judges were impressed by “outstanding” Biddulph Grange Country Park; Biddulph in Bloom work closely with the Friends of Biddulph Grange Country Park. The addition of street furniture and the strides that have been made to increase recycling were also singled out for praise. The town also highlights the importance of their heritage of mining and ribbon-making through thematic displays and town improvements.

Community:

For many people, this is the heart of Britain in Bloom. It’s also something very important to Biddulph in Bloom who actively encourage the involvement of a range of community groups from the local Women’s Institute to the Scouts and Brownies. The town’s school as well as other voluntary groups were all included as part of the judging tour. The group’s proactive approach to sponsorship was also mentioned by the judges. This is an important way for In Bloom groups to fund materials, plants and equipment such as Amberol’s self-watering planters. Organisations often create plaques to go on the planters as a way of thanking businesses for their support and giving them a sense of ownership in the In Bloom entry and other improvement projects. Keeping it close to home, Biddulph in Bloom supports regional businesses as much as it can by using local suppliers for projects such as installing reclaimed iron bollards to protect flowerbeds.

Examples of community involvement

Volunteers from any walk of life and age group are welcomed. For example, students from the nearby Reaseheath College often help erect and dismantle seasonal floral displays while other supporters include local churches and schools, the Rotary Club, British Legion and Friends of Biddulph Grange Country Park – to name but a few.

“We are fortunate to have so many supportive community groups across the town who all get behind us and support us in different ways, from sponsorship to materials to helping out with planting, painting and practical tasks,” comments Biddulph in Bloom Chair Hilda Sheldon.

Biddulph carnival

Despite the fact that judging takes place during the summer months, putting together a Britain in Bloom entry is a year-round project. In the 12 months leading up to their Gold award-winning entry, the projects undertaken by the group were many and varied including:

  • Planting beds and winter containers with around 3000 plants, including pansies and bellis, plus over 13,000 tulip and daffodil bulbs. Tulip planting included the creation of memorial flower beds for the bereaved in the community. Amberol’s self-watering planters are ideal for winter planting as they are double walled to ensure effective insulation in cold conditions and to reduce evaporation in the warmer months. Biddulph prefer to use containers where possible due to the fact that they retain water more effectively.
  • Tree planting is an important part of the group’s work and includes the planting of in memoriam trees as well as replacing damaged or unhealthy trees.
  • Spring and summer planting are carefully planned to attract pollinators. The importance of pollination in the environment is an issue also raised through work in schools, floral demonstrations and an Open Gardens event. Rose beds are also created around the town, some as memorials and are very popular with residents and visitors.

The Amberol effect

Biddulph in Bloom has been using Amberol’s self-watering planters for three decades. Hilda describes Amberol as “Experts in their field”, as well as going the extra mile to support customers in the In Bloom community. This includes sponsoring and attending regional seminars and award ceremonies. “Amberol travel all over the UK supporting Britain in Bloom groups and donating their products in prize draws as well as being on hand and happy to give advice,” she adds.

“We have always used Amberol products. The company are so helpful; they offer great advice and are very customer friendly,” Hilda comments. Although Amberol offer delivery, members of Biddulph in Bloom prefer to make the trip and collect their planters themselves. Hilda says: “We love our visit to the Amberol factory travelling through the countryside to collect our orders; it’s an annual occasion. I cannot speak too highly of Amberol as a company. We have been dealing with them for 30 years because their products are excellent.”

Hilda also values the sustainability and environmental benefits of Amberol’s planters very highly. “The self-watering planters have admirable environmental advantages around water conservation and the longevity of their products is amazing. We love them!”

Biddulph in Bloom has an ongoing programme of investment in Amberol’s self-watering planters as part of a commitment to increasing the amount of water-retaining equipment that they use. Recent purchases include barrier planters and hanging baskets for buildings to enhance floral planting schemes.

Looking to the future

It’s important to keep planning ahead, which is what Biddulph in Bloom aim to do. Due to the Covid-19 crisis, there is no 2020 Britain in Bloom competition to enter, but the group remain committed to maintaining the displays and the environment within the town as allowed by social distancing and government guidelines. Biddulph in Bloom is embracing the focus on community gardening via the RHS 'Grow Social' theme and aim to continue working closely with Amberol into the future to help meet the brief of expanding community gardening.

For more information about Amberol’s range of self-watering planters, litter bins, planterware, benches an picnic tables, call 01773 830 930 or email sales@amberol.co.uk.

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