Britain in Bloom Move Towards Biodiversity Needed

A gardener can come across hidden gems when they are pulled away from their garden. The season on Pig Row has been rather poor, the courgettes have been stunted by the cold and rain, the onions started so well but have rotted away with the wet and the top growth has been attacked by pigeons. All in all the onions have not had much of chance, rot or be eaten would be their motto this year. It is heart warming to find that others have fared better and that all gardeners under pressure try to make the most of things. We are fortune in this country that we not reliant on what we grow in our garden to feed us but those councils that enter Britain in Bloom cannot turn to their local supermarket to fill their hunger gaps. Council gardeners and parks have all felt the strain for this year's Britain in Bloom. Here, against all the odds, is a wonderful display in Oldham town centre.

The planting here gave way to one of my favourite plants, common fennel, at Pig Row and at Drovers we used this plant in the herbaceous border. Like grasses it has that ethereal tendency, it moves and bends in the wind but the plus side is that the seeds are great to munch on and the foliage is great with fish. Glad to see Oldham using this plant and other edible plants in their display but much could be learnt from the work of Incredible Edible in Todmorden. It was good to see a nod towards bee friendly pollinators in the use of single blooms in the display. I feel that this should be large part of the marking criteria in Britain in Bloom. Biodiversity should be our watch word in any form of gardening. One bed does not make an overall biodiversity plan for a borough. Though there are planters throughout the town, there is a real need to hand over the verges, the road sidings to modern meadows. It would certainly cut down the costs of having to mow them every few weeks. This is something that Sarah Raven recently discussed in her BBC2 TV Series 'Bees, Butterflies and Blooms'. This is one of the reasons we decided to grow a modern meadow at Pig Row, even in the foul weather of this year it is growing well, bringing in masses of pollinators that spread out across the garden.

It may be a question that some councils fear that meadows mean more work, or that they are not reliable enough or worse still that they feel they will look a mess. This is simply not the case and we need to move away from the Victorian idea of public planting. Though we have learnt to love pelargoniums at Pig Row, we would never plant the entire garden full of them. Neither would we reach for coleus or as in this display, begonias. They are not pollinator friendly, they look nice but as you can see from the photo devoid of bees.

Any council who took on displays this year should be commended but more should be done to get communities involved, to spread seed further and to move away from grand displays to town wide displays. Round every corner there should be planting that makes a resident smile, there should be a move away from municipal concrete, dour flagstones and the feeling that you are hemmed in by buildings. There may the argument that this costs but a committed effort in greening up areas has shown that crime falls, anti-social behaviour declines and local people reclaim their spaces.

It is time that Britain in Bloom becomes communities in bloom, that local people take over spaces. It does work, at Drovers, my neighbour and I tended our gardens and pushed out onto the communal path and the effect rippled out and soon the whole courtyard was green. There is nothing more welcoming as a green community.

If you think that gardening in cities cannot make them green, or that your backyard is too small to make an impact, think again and watch this video. The woman with the herb wall is inspirational.