The blooming beautiful town of Tetbury
10 May 2021
As you drive through the beautiful town of Tetbury you’ll see a variety of striking flower beds and floral displays around the town which are managed by the fantastic Tetbury in Bloom team. We caught up with Sue Hirst, a founding member of the current group of volunteers, and Team Leader since 2007, to find out more about their work to keep Tetbury looking its very best all year round.
Hi Sue, can you tell us a little about Tetbury in Bloom?
The current Tetbury in Bloom team was founded in March 2005 and from then until 2011 we competed in the regional ‘In Bloom’ competitions. During that time we were gold award winners 6 years running, the Overall Regional Winner in 2010 and were nominated twice as finalists in the national ‘Britain in Bloom’ competition. However, the work required was huge and became a full-time job which took over all our lives! The competition isn’t just about flowers, that’s only 50% of the marks, the other 50% is about biodiversity and community involvement. In 2011 having been awarded a second silver gilt in the national finals, we decided to step back from the competitions and just do the flowers for our enjoyment and the pleasure of everyone in the town.
We still follow the philosophy of the Royal Horticultural Society in making the town look as attractive as possible so that people can be proud of where they live. We tend 44 troughs and tubs, and 33 flower beds in 15 different locations. We go out 2 mornings a week, all year round, come rain or shine. Come the end of November, we flip into Christmas mode and organise the town’s Christmas lights and dress the Christmas trees that adorn the shop premises. By doing this, we are continuing our aim of making the town look its best through the entire year, by using lights instead of flowers!
How do you decide on the designs and arrangements for the beds and tubs?
When we took over the job of tending the beds and floral displays from the town council, there were only 8 beds and a few tubs and troughs which were all planted with seasonal bedding. We heard that the RHS were now focusing on a more sustainable approach to planting so we decided to roll out a programme of creating sustainably planted beds using a mixture of colourful foliage shrubs, long flowering perennials, with drought resistant summer bedding plants and spring flowering bulbs to give that extra splash of colour. By planting this way it means that there is all-year-round interest and of course in the long run, the established plants require less watering and the whole scheme becomes more cost effective and less labour intensive.
Over the years we have managed to extend our overall flowering period from February right through to the first frosts in November. In January it starts with the appearance of snow drops, then crocuses followed by daffodils and then, in April, the spring displays reach a crescendo with the tulips. Unfortunately, the pay back to having bulbs is that in May the leaves have to be left to die down naturally and it means that the beds and tubs tend to look untidy for a short while. However, come June, which is by far our busiest month, we start planting the town for summer using bedding geraniums which we choose for their drought resistance. The planting takes us four weeks to complete with us going out every Tuesday and Thursday morning to prepare the areas ready for planting in the evenings.
Once we have finished the planting it’s then a case of maintenance. During spells of hot dry weather we keep everything watered, then when the time comes, we’re deadheading and weeding and keeping it all looking loved and cared for. In late September, once the weather becomes autumnal, we start removing the summer bedding to allow room for us to plant extra bulbs where needed.
We spend much time looking at the beds to see how we can improve them year on year, and like any garden, the beds are always evolving so we’re constantly tweaking things here and there. During the spring when the bulbs are out, we also make a concerted effort to gauge where we need to plant more.
Last autumn we decided it would be quite nice to plant 1,000 tete a tete bulbs, 500 each side of the main path through St Marys’ churchyard, and the result was spectacular!
What have been your biggest projects?
The large star shaped bed on the roundabout, coming into the town from Cirencester, was created in 2006 at a time when there were no houses and almost no pedestrians needing to cross the London Road in that area. We had filled the bed with our signature mix of colourful foliage shrubs and long flowering perennials. Over the years the plants grew and filled the bed but during this time, the whole surrounding area changed with the building of several hundred new homes. Crossing London Road by the roundabout, which is still 40mph, was proving difficult for residents of the new housing estates, especially if crossing with children and pushchairs. The size of the plants had become too big to see over the roundabout and the approaching traffic. Reducing the speed limit and changing the type of crossing would take time, but to improve visibility in almost an instant, during July of 2019, together with the Town Council ground staff, we removed all the large shrubs from the central area. We then replanted the bed in a less dense and more floral fashion, making crossing the road a much easier task and giving the roundabout a fresh new colourful look.
At the beginning of 2020, we also decided to revamp the bed at the roadside near the hospital. Again, some of the shrubs had become far too dominant so we removed those and have now created a much more colourful floral bed there too; it’s still a work in progress but the seasonal splashes of colour look great.
We also tend the Anniversary Garden that was created back in 1977 by the founder member of the original Tetbury in Bloom organisation, to commemorate the Queen’s Silver Jubilee. By 2007 this garden had become really quite sad looking, so to commemorate its 30th anniversary and to mark the 80th birthday of the Queen, the Tetbury Civic Society decided to fund its makeover.
One of our former members, who was also a member of the Civic Society, took it upon himself to redesign and almost single handedly do the work. As a team, we then took on the maintenance of it, ensuring that it continued to look loved and cared for. To mark the Queens Platinum Jubilee next year, we’ve decided to give it a bit of a makeover again to improve the planting. We have already started that work and it will be ongoing throughout this year.
What are some of the highlights we can look out for when exploring Tetbury?
Starting at the roundabout a lot of our beds can be seen along the London Road towards the town centre. Others can be seen on the main routes into the town, at the fire station, the library and the public toilets by Old Brewery Lane car park, for which we twice won the Best Dressed Toilet award! We also tend all the beds in St Marys’ churchyard which makes it a beautiful place to walk round or to sit quietly on one of the many benches we have supplied over the past few years.
The Anniversary Garden, located in Eccles Court, is also a hidden gem tucked away within a stone’s throw of the town centre.
How do you fundraise to keep Tetbury looking so beautiful?
We are very lucky to receive much needed support from Tetbury Town Council, The Feoffees of Tetbury, St Marys’ Church, the Rotary Club and donations from the local community and from our own fundraising initiatives. One of these initiatives is the selling of hanging baskets to residents and traders in the town. We also sell the trees that we supply and dress to adorn the shop premises at Christmas time.
We are aware of how much our work is appreciated by residents, traders and visitors alike from the many kind comments and letters that we receive each year. Just by knowing that our work gives pleasure to so many people, makes it all worthwhile and drives us on to keep going.
What do you love most about Tetbury?
I think it has to be the community spirit. There’s a great community in the town and there’s so much going on to get involved in!
To find out more about Tetbury in Bloom visit: www.tetburyinbloom.co.uk
If you’re looking for a new home in a thriving, beautiful floral town then get in touch to find out more about our Steepleton community in the heart of Tetbury. Contact the team by phone: 01666 848219 or email: [email protected]