Usk in Bloom was set up in 1981, and since that time has gone from strength to strength. Although the town of Usk in Monmouthshire is relatively small with around 3000 residents, the In Bloom group has a healthy membership of 50 people, with 30 active volunteers who work hard to make the town look attractive all year round.
The group has good community links, working with many organisations, large and small examples being the local Girl Guides Association and WI, as well as businesses such as Western Power and Natural Resources Wales. They also work closely with Usk Town Council and Monmouthshire County Council to plant up and maintain around 80 areas of floral and perennial displays across the town.
Usk in Bloom has been using Amberol products for over a decade. The group first came across the company at one of the Wales in Bloom events when they were looking to change from the wooden barrels that they were using at that time. The group was particularly attracted by the water conservation element of Amberol’s self-watering containers, which also makes the setting up and maintence of planters easier.
Usk in Bloom currently have numerous Octagonal, Promenade and Square planters as well as Amberol’s popular wood effect Barrels. Current chairperson David Williams comments: “Amberol’s self-watering planters are very efficient and robust. We now have them placed across key areas of the town as it has expanded, as well as more historic locations such as New Market Street and the Town Square where they line the streets, offsetting the attractive traditional surroundings.”
So why have Usk continued to use Amberol’s self-watering planters? “The planters look good and really don’t look as if they are made from plastic,” comments David. “They also last well and are pleasingly weather resistant. We wash them once a year and they scrub up really well. We have black planters, and they don’t fade so they continue to enhance the displays.”
Over the last four decades, Usk in Bloom has won many In Bloom awards at both national and regional level. Usk was also selected to compete in the International Communities in Bloom competition in 2018 and won. David believes that Amberol’s planters have played a part in this success, as well as making maintence easier and conserving water. In fact, In Bloom judges often comment favourably on the latter element.
“We always have a theme for our annual displays,” David adds. “This year as we ease out of Covid restrictions, the theme is ‘New Dawn’, with colours such as white, blue and apricot influencing plant choice. The town looks very vibrant and colourful every year, and we always get a lot of positive feedback about the displays from visitors as well as residents.”
Usk was recently named ‘Best place to live in Wales’ by the Sunday Times with Amberol planters featuring in photos accompanying the story. David stresses that the accolade was the result of a community effort, and explains how initiatives such as Usk Open Gardens, which is run with support from the RHS, as well as the input from many other local organisations combine to make Usk such a desirable place to live and visit.
David also explains that he has sensed a change in the community since the impact of Covid, with people pulling together even more for the good of the town. “Although Wales in Bloom was cancelled last year due to Covid, we still planted up displays across the town and there was a real collective spirit,” he comments. Many Amberol customers have reported that using self-watering planters helped them maintain displays during lockdown as they reduce the need for maintenance visits, helping with social distancing.
After working together for many years, the relationship between Usk in Bloom and Amberol is a warm one. “You can tell that Amberol is family run,” comments David. “They are always helpful, from the managing director to the sales reps to the admin staff. Communication is excellent and delivery is prompt and efficient.”
David is happy to recommend Amberol’s self-watering planters to others, citing factors such as sustainability, efficiency and longevity. He also appreciates the fact that wicks and matting can be easily replaced to maintain the planters’ functioning and shelf life.
Usk will be back on the In Bloom trail this year, entering Wales in Bloom once again. Amberol planters will form a significant part of their entry, with plans to purchase more Octagonal and Promenade planters. David says: “Without our self-watering containers, it would take much longer to maintain the displays. We only have to water them once or twice a week during the summer, so it saves lots of volunteers’ time too. We appreciate the importance of having supportive partners like Amberol who make our work easier and help us to showcase the town’s significant heritage as well as what our current community has to offer.”