For the 50th anniversary of Britain in Bloom, run since 2002 by the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS), Jim Buttress is returning as a judge for the 2014 national finals of the campaign. Judging begins Monday 28 July, but Jim says it's about recognising the work of volunteers transforming their communities, not about beating fellow finalists or who has the best begonias.
Over the two week judging tour (July 28 - August 8) RHS judges will visit 71 towns, villages and cities across the UK - all national Bloom finalists*. Judges will meet thousands of volunteers and see hundreds of community projects - from sunflower fields through to recycling initiatives.
Jim, who fronted the recent BBC Great Allotment Challenge and is a former head judge of Bloom, said: "The primary point of the tour isn't to find out who is best - this isn't The X-Factor. It's about recognising the work of amazing people - whether it's one experienced gardener who decorates their street with hanging baskets, or the group of inner-city kids who've turned a filthy alleyway into a growing space. Bloom provides an opportunity to champion these projects so even more people will be inspired to roll up their sleeves, pick up a trowel and do the same in their own community.
"My fellow judges and I are coming to enjoy the extraordinary green spaces you've created and share about 10 centuries worth of horticultural experience with you. So, to all the 2014 finalists - there's no need to be nervous, just make sure the kettle's on!"
Jim and Roger Burnett, RHS Chair of the judging panel, will be judging the City category which includes Aberdeen which has been involved in the campaign since 1964 when it started.
Bloom was established as a way of marketing the UK through floral displays but has evolved into an active campaign involving up to 300,000 volunteers. Last year, volunteers invested 10 million hours into improving their local areas.
Since the RHS took over as the organising body in 2002, the campaign's focus has widened to include helping the environment and bringing communities together. For example, in April, volunteers sowed half a million sunflowers for ‘Growing for Gold' providing vital food for pollinators.
Andrea Van Sittart, RHS Head of Regional Development said: "Like Jim said, winning your category is just icing on the cake and getting Gold is recognition for your brilliant work. I wish all the 2014 finalists the very best of luck in what is a momentous year for RHS Britain in Bloom."
To find out more about the power of community gardening or to join almost 4,000 RHS Britain in Bloom groups already involved, visit: www.rhs.org.uk/communities