MONMOUTHSHIRE’S ‘town of flowers’ has been celebrated on a worldwide stage just days after winning its category at Wales in Bloom for the 37th year running.
Usk in Bloom scooped top prize in the International Challenge (Small) category at the 2018 Symposium and Awards Ceremonies of Communities in Bloom staged in Alberta, Canada last weekend.
The group, narrowly outpointing an Italian rival, gained a 5 Blooms Silver rating and a special mention for its annual Open Garden Weekend, which this summer raised £19,500 for local causes.
Usk in Bloom chair Tony Kear and Open Gardens chair Janet Mundy financed their own trips to Canada for the Oscar-style ceremony.
Over the summer judges travelled to participating communities to evaluate the overall contributions of town councils, industry, businesses and the private sector – including volunteers. In total there were 67 separate judging criteria.
The ‘bloom’ rating is determined by the total score of the evaluation, with 5 blooms denoting 82 per cent and over and the silver rating 87 to 89.9 per cent.
Following their visit to Usk, Canadian and American judges Berta Briggs and Karin Rindal wrote: “This South Wales town has earned the distinction of being the Town of Flowers and the highlight of the year is Garden Days, a two-day celebration of community and beauty.
“They welcome 2,500 visitors to see 22 spectacular home gardens and to enjoy the 85 tubs and flowerbeds created by the Bloom volunteers.
“This is a great fundraiser as well as being a cornerstone of flower tourism throughout the summer. A dedicated crew of volunteers work year round with Usk in Bloom to truly make Usk ‘The Town of Flowers’.”
In the tense ceremony held in the local theatre in Edmonton, Usk were dramatically announced winners by the narrowest of margins - gaining 882 marks from the 1,000 up for grabs. In winning the award they had beaten off competition from Italy, Hungary, Ireland and Canada.
The week before Usk had won the Large Village category at the Wales in Bloom awards staged in Colwyn Bay.
Tony Kear described the awards at home and abroad as ‘a tremendous achievement, particularly after the challenges of a wet winter, late spring and baking hot summer’.
“We’re grateful for the outstanding support of our volunteers,” he said. “We have a commercial watering arrangement with the local garden centre but this summer it wasn’t enough. We needed extra help, including one couple who went around in a camper van watering the wildflowers!”
The water used all comes from a natural borehole next to the river.
Usk in Bloom has previously won a silver award in France’s Entente Florale - Europe in Bloom. But coming first on their first entry in a global competition was ‘amazing’ he said.
He admitted it was ‘disappointing’ that the Welsh Government had turned down their application for funds to send two committee members to represent Usk in Bloom in Canada, when other groups in Wales had been successful with similar applications.
“Having the opportunity to promote Usk, Monmouthshire and Wales on a world stage has been a real privilege,” he said.
* There were other local success stories at Wales in Bloom this year.
Mathern, Mounton and Pwllmeyric Villages in Bloom won gold in the Class 7 Villages in Bloom category while Usk Church in Wales Primary School came third in the Class 15 School Garden Category and Raglan Primary School received a Certificate of Recognition.