OXFORD in Bloom is back – with a big twist.
For the past 30 years Oxford City Council has invited householders and businesses to enter their gleaming gardens or heavenly hanging baskets for gold, silver or bronze medals.
This year the authority has thrown that competition on the compost heap.
Instead, it is offering cash for groups of residents to revamp entire tired neighbourhoods of the city.
The council is offering groups up to £1,000 each (out of a £4,000 pot) to turn an ugly bit of wasteland or a sad-looking street into an explosion of summer colour.
But in return for the cash the council is asking all groups to enter the Royal Horticultural Society’s local Thames and Chiltern in Bloom contest.
The only downside is that groups have just one day left to apply for council funding – the deadline is midnight tomorrow.
Oxford in Bloom co-ordinator Michelle Legg said: “This is a complete change to how we have run it for the past 30 years.
“Previously it’s been a traditional ‘in bloom’ competition - each spring we would set up categories for people to enter front gardens, hanging baskets and schools.
“This year we really looked at how effective the competition was for Oxford: we now want to have a broader reach, going out into communities and reaching people who might not have been involved before.
“I would love to see schools link up with businesses and residents to make inclusive community groups which can run activities and events – there really are no boundaries.”
Groups can submit an application to the council detailing what they would like to do in their neighbourhood and how they would spend the money.
Funding is available for seeds, plants, tools and anything else that might help create a green haven in a grey area.
Each group will then be asked to submit their work to the RHS Thames and Chiltern In Bloom competition in the ‘it’s your neighbourhood’ category by the end of March.
Judges will then visit in June or July and announce their winners in September.
Ms Legg added: “What we really want to tap into is people’s creativity: do you want to plant a fruit tree or create a wildlife meadow or fill your park with edible flowers?”
She also admitted that part of the reason for ditching the council-run competition was dwindling popularity.
She said: “It’s about bringing the competition into the 21st century and meeting our values as a council of how we support people, rather than just working with the same 60 or 50 people delivering the same thing year in, year out.”
Enter the competition online at oxford.gov.uk