Britain in Bloom: How blooming brilliant Petworth has made the most of a golden opportunity

​​Spring is here and what better way to celebrate the beautiful bursting buds than to look back over the glory of Petworth gardeners' success in Britain in Bloom, a competition celebrating its 60th anniversary in 2024.

It was only in 2018 that Petworth Town Council entered the South & South East in Bloom part of the national RHS gardening competition for the first time.

Petworth in Bloom started with a traffic calming measure, the creation of gateway planting on the roads leading into town. But judging is about more than floral displays, it also looks at the environment, including cleanliness, litter, graffiti, weeds and maintenance of town furniture like benches and signage, as well as biodiversity, art in the landscape, the countryside and heritage.

The efforts that first year were organised by Judith Spencer from Petworth Gardeners’ Club and 44 businesses showed their support with wonderful window displays. Many residents also adopted the chosen colour scheme of green, white and violet, marking 100 years of women’s suffrage.

After months of hard work and making the town look its best, judges arrived to view Petworth in Bloom in July 2018. Come September and the volunteers learned their efforts had earned them a Silver Gilt, 17 points off Gold.

Efforts grew even bigger the following year, with the gateways doubled in size for 2019, more hanging baskets and troughs planted throughout the town and the creation of another flower bed in Rosemary Gardens.

The RHS judges were given a presentation and slideshow by Patricia Hewlett and Lorraine Cooke, with a speech by Anthony Curl, chair of the Petworth Business Association, before touring 17 areas showing how the town had developed and bloomed with the help of many members of the community.

This time, with its bold, bright planting scheme for the 200th anniversary of the birth of Queen Victoria, Petworth in Bloom was only six points off Gold, so another Silver Gilt and a determination to achieve that top prize next time.

The chosen theme for 2020 was the 75th anniversary of VE Day and despite Covid, lockdown, drought and social distancing, volunteers managed to plant up troughs and hanging baskets all around the town in patriotic colours of red, white and blue.

Although larger schemes had to be abandoned, the efforts helped so many people, as the colourful displays gave hope in the height of lockdown and the smaller areas served as a place for people to visit during that dark time.

New planters were added in the centre of town and additional plants in Rosemary Gardens. After months of hard work and preparation, Petworth was finally awarded the cherished Gold. Unable to visit in person, the judges were given an amazing 360-degree panoramic tour, highlighting the various zones and illustrating the planting.

And to top it all, there was not only another Gold in 2021 but an invitation to take part in Britain in Bloom 2022 as a candidate for the best small town. Petworth was up against Stonehouse in Gloucestershire, Croston in Lancashire, Kingsbridge in Devon, Randalstown in Ulster and Hale Village in London, and the small team of volunteers was delighted to be awarded a Silver Gilt in the national competition.

The work continues, with a third Gold for 2022 in the South & South East in Bloom and another Gold in 2023.

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