Planting for Gold – What is London in Bloom?

If you’ve been in the Gardens recently, you may have seen our gardeners and volunteers getting ready for London in Bloom. Being judged for London in Bloom is a huge part of our calendar. On Friday, our Head Gardener Geraldine King escorted LIB Rob Haslem around the Gardens to show him all of our hard work – they even got to meet Tweedy the Clown at Giffords Circus!

After Rob had left to write up our score (fingers crossed, everyone), I sat down with Geraldine to get more information about London in Bloom, and the important role it plays here at Chiswick.

Image: Geraldine and team member Nicki working in the Knot Garden

What exactly is London in Bloom?

London in Bloom is our local region of Britain in Bloom. It’s a competition that Gardens like ours can enter, to encourage them to improve their landscape, environment and engagement. It’s centered around three core values of the Royal Horticultural Society: environment, horticulture and community.

How long has it been running?

So there are 17 regions in Britain in Bloom all together – the London region has been running for over 50 years.

Who is it managed by?

Britain in Bloom is a charity, overseen by a board of trustees. Volunteering is a very important part of Britain in Bloom – it’s run by volunteers and there are over 500 in the London region alone! There’s even a special award that recognises the work volunteers do for these green spaces, called ‘It’s Your Neighborhood’. The judges are all volunteers; I’ve been a judge myself for several years and our gardener Chris Greer is currently training to be a judge.

What’s the judging criteria?

It all revolves around those three core elements of environment, horticulture and community. These are broken down into different sections for the marking – marks can be lost for any litter or weeds seen on route. Marks can also be awarded for positive work, like our partnership with Giffords Circus, who use out Kitchen Garden produce in their restaurant Circus Sauce.

Image: Judge Rob Haslem meeting Tweedy the Clown!

What does LIB mean for organisations like ours?

By receiving awards like this, it showcases how high we keep our standards throughout the year. Being judged by independent assessors is also a formal quality standard essential for when we apply for grants. As a charity, grants are a fundamental part of our funding, and enable us to keep the Gardens looking beautiful and the gates open 365 days a year.

How much work has to be done to get ready for judging?

It’s all about timing. It’s important to keep our community and environment work up throughout the year, so that it can all be brought together on the day – for instance, by providing West London Synagogue with laurel branches for their Sukkot festival. In terms of horticulture… it can be a little bit of a last minute rush. If you start the weeding too early it will all just come back again!

How does London in Bloom benefit our community?

So the most obvious benefit is of course, the high level of upkeep make the Gardens a really special place to visit and encourages people to come back.

We have loads of brilliant, enthusiastic volunteers – many of whom are local to Chiswick. Since April, our Kitchen Gardeners have notched up over 400 hours, and the Goosefoots who work out in the wider estate have just about matched them. We’ve also been helped by the Worshipful Company of Gardeners, Hounslow GoodGym, Abundance London – and even the office team got involved and planted 500 plants in the Knot Garden.

These things take time, but it all comes together to sharpen the impression people get when they visit, and the enjoyment they get out of coming to Chiswick House and Gardens. A massive thank you to everyone that’s helped!