By Dave Harrison
‘People, plants and pride … growing together.’ It’s hard to imagine a better national plant promotion program than Communities In Bloom. The industry would do well to back this winner.
Some 433 Canadian communities formally celebrated plants and landscaping in style this past year, and a number of them took home some impressive hardware to show for their efforts.
The Communities In Bloom program recently toasted its top entrants at a conference in Brandon. There were nine National Winners (representing the various population categories), a handful of International category award recipients, and a few dozen individual criteria awards (youth involvement, heritage conservation, turf and groundcovers, floral displays, etc.).
CIB is the only national plant promotion program we have, and is run largely by volunteers (with the financial support of a number of industry suppliers). It’s about as cost-effective as any industry promotional activity can get. It encourages greater use of plants in municipal, commercial and residential applications.
The slogan, “people, plants and pride … growing together” sums it up well. CIB was based on similar programs in Britain, Ireland and France. It was launched in 1995 with only 29 municipalities, and has now grown to over 500 villages, towns and cities across Canada, as well as U.S. and European participants in the International Challenge.
As anyone who has lived in a Communities In Bloom municipality will attest, it generates considerable media attention. It also enthuses a lot of volunteers to tackle larger planting projects. All the attention gets homeowners to take a closer look at their properties, to see where plants can be added for effect. (This is a big responsibility – you don’t know if the CIB judges will be travelling down your street. You can’t let the team down.)
There are many ‘postcard-quality’ presentations among the images included in the Communities In Bloom awards magazine. A lot of time and energy went into these projects. Community pride is evident.
The CN Tower incorporated CIB into its 30th anniversary celebrations. It showcased 15 feature gardens in tribute to past or current CIB award winners.
Comments by participants posted to the CIB website reflect the broad support the program fosters. “It becomes infectious with more residents and businesses taking part by improving their properties,” wrote Sandra Clendinning of Dorchester, Ontario. Added Ann Norgan of Moosomin, Saskatchewan: “There is more support for spending tax dollars on floral displays and green spaces.”
Plans are underway to establish Les Fleurons du Québec, a province-wide project that will recognize municipalities and gardeners for civic beautification efforts through horticulture. Response was positive to a pilot project in 18 communities last year. Organizers had hoped to begin with 150 communities this year, with a goal of 600 municipalities by 2009.
South of the border, America In Bloom is also generating a lot of interest. Established in 2001, AIB attracted 200 people to its recent awards conference. It has already involved 130 communities.
Such programs need the industry’s support. A few years ago we ran a feature on industry participation and talked with a number of garden centre owners and growers assisting with – and in many cases leading – the campaigns in their respective communities.
Any opportunity to get consumers talking about plants is a solid investment in growing this industry.