Is Seasonal Bedding Politically Correct?
By Peter Holman
In this day of environmental responsibility Bedding or Public Seasonal Display has in some areas become non-PC. Sadly many assume that bedding is no longer sustainable and should be replaced by other forms of planting. For this and budgetary reasons many local authorities have reduced or in some cases dispensed with their bedding. It therefore saddens me as a professional horticulturist and advocate for seasonal displays to see that seasonal display is no longer considered so important.
While I would always support greater plant diversity in displays especially now that climate change is having an impact I could not support however any further decline in the use of bedding displays for both winter and summer in our towns & cities and public parks.
Where would places such as Edinburgh, Belfast, Cardiff, Bath, Harrogate or Eastbourne be without their outstanding seasonal displays that are so welcoming to countless ten's of thousands of visitors & tourists. How would Nottingham, Perth and Sheffield have faired in Britain in Bloom in 2004 without their rich and beautifully designed schemes. Would they have won their Gold Medals? I think not!
Indeed would the millions of visitors to Buckingham Palace take away such vivid memories if it where not for the outstanding bedding displays winter & summer.
In discussing this issue with many parks officers across the UK it appears that many are so hard pushed to fulfil their everyday duties, that they cannot give the required time to produce good schemes and displays, often opting to copy a previous years designs. So it is easy to see why so many displays are reduced to simple single or mixed coloured affairs with uninspiring designs. While I concede that less funding is available to LA (Local Authoritie) Parks Services these days and by that token they are not entirely responsible for the lowering of standards they must accept that any savings they make is disproportionate to the enormous loss of pleasure, civic and local pride.
It is only when skill, knowledge, time and enthusiasm are combined with political support that we see quality designs and displays to be proud of.
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How will commercial plant production fair should this trend continue and will economies beyond our shores be affected? Many countries throughout the world rely on bedding seed production/harvesting to add to their economy and provide local workers with a better income, especially those in South America.
However the story is not all gloom and despondency, the art form is fortunately making a small comeback thanks to the Royal Horticultural Society whose Annual Bedding Design Competition at Tatton Park in July of each year is going from strength to strength with an increasing number of local authorities taking part and producing spectacular designs and displays. On the other hand one hopes that this resurgence is not just based on a desire to win gongs and top honours but borne out of a genuine desire to encourage and sustain an art form that was honed in Victorian times.
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Peter Holman MI Hort