Usk History


Floral Displays
Permanent Planting
Town Competition



Read the Usk in Bloom Chairman's description of the awards evening.


Usk in Bloom volunteers are once again celebrating competition success in the Wales in Bloom Large Village category for an astonishing 32nd year in a row. Judging was held on 31st July and the award of a silver guilt was the highest in the category this year and one below the Gold standard achieved in 2012. The judges commented “Usk is an excellent example where a splash of floral colour has been subtly combined with an appreciation of both local heritage and care for the environment producing an award winning combination that brings benefits to all”. They added “The enthusiasm of all concerned is to be congratulated and none more so that the children of Usk primary School and Sunflowers Nursery”

Chairman Tony Kear was positive beaming at the result. “This is indeed a remarkable achievement for the incredibly hardworking volunteers. We have had 28 people from all ages supporting us this year who have been involved in the different phases of planning, planting, and regular deadheading. It’s been a bigger challenge this year that previous seasons due to the urgent need to raise funds to replace rotten flower barrels and the extremes in the weather from a cold spring to a heat wave in parts of the summer (with at times twice daily watering) and then heavy storms in the run up to judging which left a rather bedraggled look. But combined with Mother Nature and the enthusiasm we had fingers crossed on the day! We are very very proud that the work we do as a relatively small group has a huge benefit to Usk.

The Town, importantly boosted by free car parking, has earned a reputation as a tourist destination that brings economic vibrancy. The closer links with Usk Open gardens has seen the local pubs hotels and shops benefit from the additional trade. We are delighted that our hard work has been recognised by the judges. It’s widely recognised that the floral display in Twyn Square are probably the best ever. It’s truly fantastic to see so many people taking photographs on a daily basis even in the rain!

We were delighted to receive letters of congratulations from MP David Davies and AM Nick Ramsay which has given us greater encouragement for the Britain in Bloom result due on 12th October at a gala Dinner in Cleethorpes.

This year Usk in Bloom teamed up with Usk Diabolical Drama Group to arrest The Wales (and the following week in a re-run -the Britain in Bloom) judges on arrival at the Sessions house and charged with vagrancy, loitering in streets and peering into peoples gardens and property. They pleaded not guilty on the basis they were gardening judges and indeed had been seen doing the same in other towns in the land.

To prove their cases they had to be escorted around the Town for 90 minutes, meet the various people at the designated stops and return to the court to face the jury. They were found not guilty and allowed to leave to judge other competitors, a plot that the Head RHS Britain in Bloom judge said was a “stroke of genius”.

Usk in Bloom now move on to Usk Show for the first time to show their hard work to a wider audience and see new volunteers and then the Town Awards Ceremony will be held at the Glen Yr Afon House Hotel on Saturday 3rd November where the guest presenter will be Bob Sweet Head of Judging at the RHS and Chelsea Flower show.

Usk in Bloom volunteers are hoping that the warmer weather will help this year’s floral displays that were planted on 5th June and also the many businesses that have put up their displays.

It’s been an unusually hectic and busy start to this year’s campaign as the Committee had to replace some 18 tubs and barrels with modern water well / self-wicking ones in phase one of the replacement plans as well as all the old peat to ensure the plants get the best opportunity in readiness for the Britain and Wales in Bloom competitions.  Unfortunately the extent of the state of other wooden tubs was fully revealed as some simply fell apart when they were emptied.

An emergency order for further 5 tubs was required from our suppliers Amberol. We hope everyone likes the new style. Usk in Bloom Logo’s will soon appear on them and once the plants are established we expect them to be great additions to our displays. Importantly it will mean less commercial watering and they will not require regular repair or indeed replacement. Our thanks are again extended to Monmouthshire Housing Association, The New Grove Trust, Usk Rotary Club, Barclays Bank, Cllr Chis Wilkinson Mayor 2012/3 and the Welsh Church Fund for their generosity with grant funding - who without their support the displays would have been depleted.

The response to the “cry for new helpers” to assist with Britain in Bloom has been wonderful. We’ve had over 15 new volunteers and it’s been great to see new comers to the Town willing to become involved. As a result, the planting at the Willows Garden Centre for the Twyn Square was completed in record time - a special thanks to Greg and Jo Peacock as well as Alistair Murray for providing their “muscle” in moving the old and new planters and the old heavy wet peat and to A Jones and Co (Usk) Ltd for use of their truck

What’s new this year? Keep an eye out for the wild flower meadow outside the Usk School fence - we hope it will give a spectacular entrance to Usk. We will be moving the Town of Flowers sign / box from under the Trees and enhancing that display. Our hanging basket service is continuing for Bridge Street and we hope the chosen colours of Red, White and yellow will provide a real treat to our visitors. Keep an eye out for a roving TV camera this summer too as we have documentary makers in Town following what we and the community do!

Finally a special thank you to Roberts and Co, and The Three Salmons Hotel for their sponsorship this year and especially Peter and Jan Clarke for supplying the flowers for Usk Bridge.

If you would like to help and be a part of our Britain in Bloom by keeping the floral displays to the best standard we can, the volunteers meet in Twyn Square every Wednesday at 6pm – usually for only an hour. No experience is necessary – training is willingly given! The main labour intensive and heavy work is done. We are looking to add alternative day if Wednesday is inconvenient for some volunteers so please do come and down to see us.

Also as part of our “Your Street in Bloom” campaign, if you would like to look after a bed or container near to where you live or on any other matter, please contact our Chairman Tony Kear 07824 810182 or email uskinbloom@gmail.com. Follow us on Twitter @uskInBloom or on Facebook - Usk the Town of Flowers

Usk in Bloom volunteers start the Summer floral display planting at the Willows Garden Centre.

After what has seamed like an extraordinarily long and cold winter, the daffodils and tulips have finally started to show their full blooms and  Spring  has finally got underway.  Its a big year for the Town of Usk and the Usk in Bloom volunteers as we represent Wales in the RHS Britain in Bloom category  for Large Village.   The winter period has been productively used to plan ahead for the summer displays.  The colour scheme chosen is red, yellow and white - hot to coincide with the Chairman's wishes for the weather!

Plants have been ordered through The Willow Garden Centre as far back as November and a condition survey of the boxes and tubs undertaken.  The latter proved eye opening.  Over the years, the wooden versions have been lovingly patched and repaired but their working lives are coming to an end.  Replacements over the next 3 years with modern "wicking" fit for purpose plastic but attractive barrels and towers will cost over £8,000.  Immediate replacements for this season nearly £5,000.  This has been a headache not wanted  but the resourceful committee have been hunting down grants and financial support to achieve just that.  With the support of Monmouthshire Housing Association, the Wales Church Fund, Usk Rotary Club, Usk Prison Charity Fund and Barclays Bank that financial target was reached for the 2013 replacements.  Everyone at Usk in Bloom extends our sincere thanks to these very generous organisations for supporting us.

This was on the back of the Annual auction held at the Nags Head lead in typical haughty fashion by well known local auctioneer Chris Brain.  Over 80 local businesses and individuals donated over 150 auction lots and £5,119.40 was raised on the night  - an amazing achievement such tough economical climate we all face.  A huge thank you to everyone who either donated or bid on the night as well as a special thank you to Simon, Sue and staff at the Nags Head for hosting the event.

Planning will soon turn to planting.  Boxes are being repainted and flower beds will  be prepared  Can you help and be a part of Britain in Bloom?  We are holding a get together at the Sessions House, New Market Street, Usk on May 8th at 7pm where current volunteers will hopefully meet new ones over a glass of wine and nibbles. We would love to see you there . If you could give an hour a week or join in with "Your Street in Bloom" and look after the flowers near you and help keep our streets tidy - please do get in contact.   At a recent presentation in the Sessions House, our Chairman Tony Kear spoke of the pride and passion of the volunteers and the determination to help win Britain in Bloom. We are proud what we do, proud of the displays and love doing it. Lets keep it that way and show the Judges in August  that  " We love where we live". 

Contact Chairman Tony Kear 07824810182. Uskinbloom@gmail.com

Usk has now been officially announced as a Britain in Bloom finalist for 2013 in the Large Village category where the criteria is having a population under 2500. The Royal Horticultural Society sponsored competition will be supplying a banner to hang in the Town to help promote our entry and public awareness. Judging will take place in August. Chairman Tony Kear and campaign coordinator Carys Davies attended the opening seminar in Harrogate and met many of our fellow competitors. It was clear Usk's reputation goes before us and our long track record of Regional success was commented upon.

Usk Colour Scheme for 2013
So with the initial planning over its time to announce the colour schemes for 2013. We have chosen a theme of our industrial heritage and the colours of Red, yellow and white - hot, vibrant colours - think steel making, furnaces etc. Consistency across the floral displays for colours was one key point mentioned at length by the RHS so if you are thinking of your schemes already for the summer, please spare a thought on how you might combine our themes with yours.

This prestigious competition brings both additional work and cost. The committee has recently undertaken a review of the 80+ beds, tubs and containers that we look after and many are in such a poor state of repair that they need replacing. Initial estimates are around £8,000 but we hope to phase this over 2 or 3 years and apply for grant funding.

Annual Auction 2013
The main fund raising event - the annual auction at the Nags Head, Twyn Square will be held on Wednesday 13th March at 7pm. Tickets which include a light ploughmans meal can be obtained from Simon Key at the Nags or via our secretary Reg Darge - email uskinbloom@gmail.com or ring 673242. Usk in bloom would like to thank the Key family for allowing us to use the pub for this important fund raising event and for all the auction lots that have been donated and promised from friends and businesses in Usk. Such community participation stands us out in the judging.

Recently, the residents of Burrium Gate received a letter and DVD about the activities of Usk in Bloom and its been fantastic to have some new volunteers - we do need more though in our big year so if you are interested please email us as above or ring Chairman Tony Kear on 672845. We hope to be holding a pre planting season meeting in April.

A huge thank you to Usk Brownies to have helped us to almost finish the painter mural that was started at the Christmas winter festival. Great fun was as by all the Brownies including the leaders! We are also extremely grateful to the Memorial Hall Committee for helping us out with the dry and warm storage of the mural pending its completion and the committee finding a permanent hanging place which we hope to announce shortly.

Finally, we are sorry to say goodbye to volunteers Jan Savigar and Rosemary Morris - stalwarts of Usk in Bloom and who have been involved since we started back in 1981. That's a lot of deadheading and watering over 32 summers and we really will miss their dedication and commitment to the cause. The committee past and present would like to place on record our appreciation of their work. Thank you!

After a dismal summer, lit up by the continuation of Usk’s 31year award winning run in the Wales in Bloom Competition, it was time for the Usk’s gardeners to receive their individual awards at the Annual celebration held at the Glen Yr afon House Hotel on Sunday 4th November 2012.

Over 120 guests and residents present were blessed with an in-depth presentation from Nationally renowned garden designer Arne Maynard. Based at Allt – Yr- Bella he gave a 20 minute view in pictures of his 4 year “journey” to being awarded the RHS Gold for the design of the Laurent Perrier Bicentenary Garden at the 2012 Chelsea Flower Show.

Alongside MP David Davies, AM Nick Ramsay and the Mayor Councillor Chris Wilkinson enthusiastic gardeners were given a short insight by Judges from Wales in Bloom and the Town competition as to what they look for wand what to avoid – weeds being the main bug bear!

Usk in Bloom Award Evening 2012

The following week the first fundraising event of the autumn was held at the Nags Head where 45 quizzers were questioned by Chairman Tony Kear which saw over £400 raised for the Mayors fund raising appeal where one of the beneficiaries is Usk in Bloom.

The start of the Usk Winter Festival saw the committee join forces to support and promote the internationally famous children’s author and story teller Cat Weatherill in a stunning and spell binding solo performance of the Gothic Horror Blue Beard. Held in the historic court room of the sessions house and lit only by candle light, the venue proved to be perfect for a 60 minute virtuoso which left watchers nervously looking over their shoulders for the Sessions House ghost.

To cap off a busy festival weekend, The Gallery in the Square owner David Sanson teamed up with local artist Claire Lovell to design an Usk in Bloom mural for the 2013 Britain in Bloom campaign under the banner of “Paint a flower to help plant a flower “. Manned by Usk in Bloom volunteers over 2 days the mural’s first flower was painted by Usk’s Mayor and then saw over 220 individual painters donate £1 to paint in their chosen flower or garden insect which were etched onto the canvass. Adults and children of all ages contributed and it was clear that there are some budding artists in the Town!

Painting the Usk in Bloom mural.

Usk in Bloom would like to thank Head Teacher Jared Nolan for loaning out the paint brushes and palettes, A Jones and Co (Usk) Ltd for donating the mural board and the Memorial Hall committee for allowing temporary dry and warm storage of the mural to allow it to be “wintered” and finished off. It is hoped that the mural can be properly framed and hung in a prominent position for all to see in the Town after judging in July.

Finally, the colours and theme for 2013 have been chosen in conjunction with The Willow Garden Centre - but watch space in the next edition for the scheme to be announced!

If you are interested in supporting Usk in Bloom give Chairman Tony Kear a call on 07824 810182 or email uskinbloom@gmail.com. No gardening experience is required (but helpful!) - Just bags and bags of enthusiasm to keep out Town looking fantastic. Remember not only are we once again committed to entering the Wales in Bloom competition for 2013 but we have accepted an invitation to represents Britain in Bloom!  That will mean a great effort is required - so please if you can help in anyway please do get in contact.


Click for previous year's news