RHS puts sustainability at heart of UK’s biggest gardening competition

December 9th 2021

The Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) is to oversee changes to its Britain in Bloom community gardening competition that will help groups to have a positive impact on the environment.

When the UK Finals competition returns in 2022 after a two-year hiatus, changes to the judging criteria will encourage groups to enact tweaks and changes that will benefit both people and planet, including promoting biodiversity across all areas of their work and employing planet friendly gardening practices. This includes:

• Prioritising perennial or pollinator-friendly plants where appropriate. If annual bedding is used, groups should consider their use and provenance;

• Considering the needs of wildlife when maintaining areas, for example avoiding hedge trimming in nesting season or leaving grass longer at certain times of the year to support invertebrates;

• Eliminating the use of peat, for example in propagating and raising plants;

• Minimising water use and reducing reliance on mains water supplies;

• Opting for plants that are less susceptible to pest and disease and swapping chemicals for biological and cultural controls where needed, such as attracting insects to manage pest problems and hand weeding;

• Identifying and tackling local environmental issues using plants, for example planting hedges along main roads to capture particulate pollution.

Full details of the changes are being shared with community gardening groups that compete within the Britain in Bloom regional programmes across the UK. The highest performing groups in each Bloom region are nominated to take part in the UK finals. 2022’s finalists will be announced early in the new year.

The changes to the judging criteria reflect what Britain in Bloom groups’ report as their main motivation with 91% saying they participate to improve their local environment.1 This includes planting to combat pollution in urban Walthamstow, mass tree planting to capture carbon in Amersham or planting for wildlife in Dumfries.

Kay Clark, RHS Community Development Manager, said:The updates to the Britain in Bloom judging criteria bring it into line with what many community gardeners tell us they are already seeking to do – bring about positive change in their local environment for people and planet. The changes will by no means limit the horticulture that will be on show, instead we’re likely to see even more creative and ambitious displays that demonstrate the power of plants.

In 2019, the judging criteria was updated to give more weight to group’s sustainability credentials but this is the first time in the competition’s 58 year history that the environmental criteria have been so substantially rewritten, and reflects the RHS’ recently launched Planet Friendly Gardening campaign. The campaign is intended to equip the UK’s 30 million gardeners with the knowledge and tools they need to make a meaningful contribution to climate change targets.

For more information and greener gardening advice visit: https://www.rhs.org.uk/gardening-for-the-environment

To find RHS community gardening groups in your local area visit: https://www.rhs.org.uk/get-involved/find-a-group

Source: RHS Press Release


  1. Based on a survey of 500 community gardening groups, 91% of Britain in Bloom groups reported being motivated by improving the environment for biodiversity, plants, wildlife and their habitats. The survey was conducted on behalf of the RHS in October 2021.