A blooming marvel that just keeps on growing

    Tunbridge Wells War Memorial

    The competition Royal Tunbridge Wells in Bloom has enjoyed a record number of entries so far this year.

    But as the deadline looms to register, the organisers are eager for the numbers to grow – and they want more shops to get involved.

    The event covers all things green and colourful from parks, pubs and the hanging baskets on The Pantiles to window sills and tubs outside people’s front doors.

    Tunbridge Wells enters part of a nationwide competition run by the Royal Horticultural Society and the individual components of Royal Tunbridge Wells in Bloom are combined to boost its wider ambitions.

    The front gardens, balconies, allotments, wildlife gardens, schools and business premises are incorporated into the judges’ two-and-a-half-hour tour of the town.

    And in the last two years Tunbridge Wells has been awarded the gold medal in the category of ‘Best Large Town’ in the RHS South and South-East in Bloom section.

    Royal Tunbridge Wells in Bloom was revived in 2010 by Katharina Mahler-Bech and her late husband Daniel with the Town Forum after a seven-year hiatus in order to create a ‘greener and cleaner town’.

    The idea was to build on the Love Where We Live initiative at the start of the recession to hide all the ‘grot spots’ in the town by camouflaging them with flowers.

    It coincided with the arrival of Mel Henley, a Britain in Bloom judge, as the borough council’s new Parks Manager. Two years later the town was entered into the RHS’s competition.

    “All the planting we did in April and May is coming up at last,” says Mrs Mahler-Bech. “We have put a lot of effort in, so fingers crossed we get a bit of sunshine now.

    “The new thing this year was planting 8,000 bulbs around the War Memorial. It had never been done before – and next year we must put more in!” The smaller entries are just as important as the larger ones.

    “The judges are looking for engagement with the community, it’s not only about the flowers.

    “We have to plan half a year in advance, like the fashion industry, and it’s an all-year-round thing so it’s very difficult to keep it up and we need some sponsorship,” she adds.

    They have received more than 150 entries but she wishes more shop windows would become included because it has proved a very popular category in other participating towns.

    The closing date for entries is June 30, with the judges due to arrive on July 11. You can take part by downloading a form from the website www.royaltunbridgewellsinbloom.org.uk and the bloom team’s Facebook page, or call in at the Gateway on 8 Grosvenor Road.