Stony Stratford in Bloom 2014 First half

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30 June 2014

Everybody’s talking about the sunflowers

Most people look at boarded up windows and sigh and think how ugly they are. Zena noticed the boarded up windows of the Forester’s Arms, and decided to do something to improve them. First she got permission from the agents and the obliging new owners, who will be opening a restaurant there soon; and then she invited others of an artistic bent to help her to transform the boards. The result? Yvette provided the sunflower design; Anne provided the paint; and with the additional help of Susan, Lynn, Mary and Eva the sunflowers were gracing the window boards two days later. And everyone is saying how much better it all looks.

24 June 2014

Stony Stratford in Bloom and Friends of Stony Stratford Library combine for a talk celebrating fifty years of Britain in Bloom, and Stony Stratford before and after

The Library was filled to capacity for the joint Stony Stratford in Bloom/Friends of Stony Stratford Library talk: ‘Fifty Years of Britain in Bloom; Stony Stratford Before and After’. Judy Deveson, Chair of Stony Stratford in Bloom, who gave the talk, drew on pictures from Graham Ashworth’s ‘History of Britain in Bloom’, supplied by the Royal Horticultural Society, and from the Archive Office in Bath and Aberdeen (early winners) to outline the origins and development of the competition.

Roy Hay was the inspiration behind Britain in Bloom – borrowing the idea from de Gaulle’s Fleurissement de France – and he set it up in 1964 with the help of the British Tourist Authority. In the course of the talk Judy explained how the organisation, structure and horticultural aims and approach of Britain in Bloom have changed as it was handed over to the Keep Britain Tidy Group in 1983 and then, in 2000, to the Royal Horticultural Society. Though horticultural impact is still an important part of the competition, there is now a much greater emphasis on community and environmental sustainability.

The second half of the talk was on the impact of Britain in Bloom on Stony Stratford. Judy drew on Stony Stratford in Bloom’s archive of ‘before’ and ‘after’ pictures to show what a difference the efforts of Stony Stratford in Bloom volunteers have made to the appearance of the town. Very striking were the pictures of the Library beds, the Four Seasons Garden and King George’s Crescent before Stony Stratford in Bloom volunteers set about transforming them. And of course, a number of beds, such as the Queen Eleanor Garden and Sensory Garden, have been created from bare grass. She also brought out how Milton Keynes Borough Council and a number of groups in the town – the Stony Stratford Town Council, the Stony Stratford Business Association, Futures Group, Church Garden Volunteers, Women’s Institute, Guides and Brownies, schools, Riverside Parks Group, York House, Floral Group – play a part in helping Stony Stratford to look beautiful.

24 June 2014

Tapestry planting update


The Sempervivum plants having arrived, Stony Stratford in Bloom volunteers were able to slip them into the tapestry planting boxes on 19 June to form the letters and numbers to highlight this year’s fiftieth anniversary of Britain in Bloom. On 24 June the boxes were triumphantly lowered into position in the Library bed.

To our dismay, when we checked on the plants the following morning, we discovered that a number were scattered over the pavement – birds being the likely culprits. However, a quick trip to Odell’s and the purchase of some wire mesh for night-time protection has solved the problem of the aviary assault. Freestones have provided a beautiful information board explaining the significance of the letters and numbers in plants, so the residents of Stony Stratford should have no difficulty in working out what the lettering is celebrating.

24 June 2014

Grahame and Chris meet the challenge and win this year’s Horticultural Quiz

Grahame and Chris Holden were the winners of this year’s Horticultural Quiz, which was set by last year’s winners, Clive and Jackie Barrett. The general view was that it wasn’t an easy quiz, and Chris thinks that the secret of their success was that they are avid cryptic crossword fans. The prize was a £10 bouquet from Back to the Fuchsia.

19 June 2014

Another Re:Love Fashion fundraiser makes £66.30 for Stony Stratford in Bloom funds

Stony Stratford in Bloom volunteers and friends enjoyed their third fashion fundraiser at Re:love on 19 June. It was a balmy summer evening – perfect for sipping a glass of wine and trying on tempting clothes and accessories. Raffle prizes were provided by Jackie Allen and Stony Stratford in Bloom, and the combination of raffle money and 10% of takings brought the welcome sum of £66.30 for Stony Stratford in Bloom funds. Meanwhile those who’d come to the event went home very happy with their purchases.

10 May 2014

First official Stony Stratford in Bloom Walk: Walking Festival Weekend

We were so lucky as the weather shone on us, which really made our first walk most enjoyable.

A number of the walkers were really surprised that so many of the beds that they pass on a daily or weekly basis are cared for by Stony Stratford in Bloom. Everyone said that they really enjoyed the walk; people were touching the grasses, rubbing leaves to release the scents, and the blooms and grasses were dancing in the wind.

Thanks to all the volunteers who maintain the beds and to those who prepared and organised the walk.

1 May 2014

Tapestry planting to celebrate 50 years of Britain in Bloom

On Thursday, 1 May a group of Stony Stratford in Bloom volunteers gathered in the polytunnel for our first go at tapestry planting. When casting around for ideas for celebrating 50 years of Britain in Bloom Pat Kyd suggested that for one of our initiatives we might try tapestry planting, as she’d been inspired by a Christine Walkden television programme That introduced this topic. After a group viewing of a recording of a clip from the programme we were all very enthusiastic about trying it out, and Mary Robinson volunteered to liaise with the suppliers – not an easy task, as it has turned out! She and Robin Nicholls made the boxes in which the plants will be placed – and these will be displayed in the Library Bed when the threat of cold winds has passed.

We were able to plant only the background plants, as the Semper vivum, which will be used to delineate the letters BIB and the number 50, have not yet arrived. It was great fun planting up and we look forward to publicising this important Britain in Bloom anniversary through the medium of plants when the Semper vivum are available to add to the boxes early in June. Derek Gibbons, living dangerously, balanced on the workbenches to get the perfect photos of our first steps in tapestry planting.

April/May 2014

Enthusiastic young gardeners!

Spring has sprung, and so school gardening sessions have started once again. With great relish St Mary & St Giles students helped load up the compost we’d made and forked it over the school beds. Michele and Jackie, the chefs, have enjoyed using the herbs and winter salads, and are looking forward to harvesting the strawberries that are now in full flower. The children have planted tomatoes in the polytunnel, and onions, peas, radishes and potatoes in the beds outside.

There are also sunflowers beginning to shoot in pots, which will be planted outside the school as part of the Royal Horticultural Society’s ‘Growing for Gold’ celebration of 50 years of Britain in Bloom.

Queen Eleanor School and Russell Street School pupils have been planting sunflowers too, and red poppies to commemorate the First World War. The onions have gone in to the Queen Eleanor School beds and the radishes – and lettuce and cucumber in the greenhouse. So Stony Stratford’s children will have no difficulty in eating their ‘5-A-Day’!

The Brownies who first helped create the Brownie Bed in front of Queen Eleanor School have now become Guides, and they proved very enthusiastic weeders at a session in May, where they had no trouble in distinguishing between the dandelions and thistles that had to come out, and the marigolds and asters that had to stay in.

In June they plan to plant yellow snapdragons and pansies.


26 April 2014

Sunshine and success for the Stony Stratford in Bloom Plant Sale and York House Coffee Morning

Early morning rain on 26 April suggested we might have to resign ourselves to a rather dismal, soggy plant sale – but the clouds lifted and we struck lucky – and that made a huge difference to the day. After some minor adjustments we can proudly announce we made £450 altogether: £356.50 on plants; £66 on the Tombola, £10.50 on the bric-a-brac and £17 from Sue Jones’s lovely handicrafts.

By 8.30 am the first shift of Stony Stratford in Bloom volunteers were unloading tray after tray of terrific plants from cars and carrying them to tables. Throughout the morning there was a phalanx of plant sellers, so potential customers never had to wait for service – Budgens eat your heart out!

At 10.30 am Phil the Bard declaimed a very apt verse to a satisfyingly large crowd, and then Bruce Klive helped organise the seed-planting in the Communal Edible Bed. A few emails and phone calls a couple of days before had allowed us to rustle up quite a few children, who clearly enjoyed their planting of herbs and vegetable seeds. So – a great success!

Inside, York House seemed to be buzzing too, so it was clearly a fruitful occasion for all involved.

23 April 2014

Drizzle doesn’t dampen spirits for the Bluebell Party at The Space Play Centre

British weather was being British weather for the Bluebell Party on Wednesday, 23 April – a little undecided about whether it was going to rain or not, then producing a fine drizzle after we’d laid out the party food for the children in the wood. But the children didn’t seem to mind at all that a faint wet mist was coating their open sandwiches, crisps and cup-cakes, and they tucked into the food we’d provided with great eagerness.

The Children’s Play Centre had decorated the Bluebell Wood beautifully – the trees being festooned with fluttering Easter wishes and jars with lighted tea-lights; the jars having been painted by the children with bluebells. And of course, we had a carpet of lovely bluebells to admire and to show the children as they hungrily polished off the cup-cakes. There were a thousand more bluebells than last year after our planting efforts earlier in the year (22 January 2014).

16 April 2014

Sun shines on Stony Stratford in Bloom’s ‘Growing for Gold’ sunflower planting in Wolverton Road Recreation Ground

How lucky were we! Blue sky, bright sunshine, and beautiful white blossom in the Wolverton Road Recreation Ground on 16 April as Stony Stratford in Bloom volunteers helped a lovely bunch of children plant sunflowers in pots to celebrate 50 years of Britain in Bloom. The Royal Horticultural Society had sent free sunflower seeds to all In Bloom groups who indicated they wanted them, and Karen Parker from Wolverton Road Allotment Association brought lots more seeds from a sunflower head she’d grown last year. (She also helped out with a trestle table, oil cloth, little pots, and a tarp for children to sit on as they potted up.)

A group of children from ‘The Space’ Children’s Play Centre came along to take part; there were other children who’d heard about the event from Stony Stratford in Bloom volunteers, and some who saw the event as they strolled through the park and ran up to join in. All twenty-one were enthusiastic gardeners, and wonderfully polite – a credit to Stony Stratford!

All the pots were labelled, and contact details taken so the children can be told when it’s time to replant the little sunflowers in the bed along the Wolverton Road Allotments Fence. Sue Bryant from the Wolverton Road Allotment Association had started work on preparing this bed, and she and some Stony Stratford in Bloom volunteers continued with this while others helped the children with their planting. Let’s hope that we can look forward to a blaze of gold along the fence during the summer months.

In the autumn the sunflowers will be measured, and there will be a small prize for the tallest plant.

You can read more about this on the Royal Horticultural Society’s own website by following this link:

31 March 2014

Spring blossoms in Stony Stratford – Growing for Gold!

Bright golden polyanthus and daffodils have been dazzling passers-by for some time in the planters and hanging baskets; and the bold blaze of yellow has been complemented by the subtler pale blue and lemon of the pansies. Eye-catching golden clusters of tête-à-tête daffodils greet visitors to the town at each of the entrance Millennium beds – so it can certainly be said that Stony Stratford in Bloom is Growing for Gold to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of Britain in Bloom this spring. The Brownie bed outside the Queen Eleanor School on Galley Hill has been looking particularly attractive, with its spring-time flowers shining out like a beacon light, and a number of residents have commented on the striking impact of the spring flowers on the Wolverton Road Roundabout planters as they drive into Stony Stratford.


Warm sunshine has brought out even more spring blooms as March tips over into April – with dramatic white tulips in the Four Seasons Bed, and pink and white tulips peeping out in the planters.

As the season moves forward we’ll bring you more pictures of the blossoms when their time comes.

15 March 2014

Rotarians and Stony Stratford in Bloom volunteers came together to make Wolverton Road more beautiful

Last year the Wolverton and Stony Stratford Rotary Club sponsored a new flower bed on Wolverton Road (near the tree that Stony Stratford in Bloom volunteers planted in memory of Sheila Plater). Mary Sarre designed the bed, in consultation with the Rotarians, and it was planted up. This year the Rotary Club decided they’d like the bed to be enlarged, adding more shrubs – Cotoneaster franchettii, Hebe and Geranium Rozanne, with the addition of three beautiful orange ‘Whisky Mac’ roses. Mary ordered the plants and on 15 March a gang of Stony Stratford in Bloom volunteers and two Rotarians – Marcus Rixon (who brought the roses) and Brian Stuart – set about adding the extra plants. Mary had enlarged the bed earlier, and Pat had weeded, so the task was much easier than it might have been. The sun shone down obligingly, and at the end of the morning everyone was very pleased with the results.

12 March 2014

Inspirational talk by Thérésa Wedderburn on Hardy Exotic Plants

Each year Stony Stratford in Bloom likes to arrange a horticultural talk in the town which will be of interest to Stony Stratford in Bloom volunteers and the wider public. This year Thérésa Wedderburn, well known to Stony Stratford in Bloom members for her help with our children’s planting events and wreath-making workshops, came to enlighten us all on the subject of growing Hardy Exotic Plants.

The Crown generously provided the venue for free, and there was a good audience for her inspirational talk. We learnt that her travels abroad had first inspired her to try growing exotic plants in Britain, and she provided us with a fascinating and frank account of what has worked and what hasn’t worked for her. She treated us to a cascade of lusciously beautiful plant pictures, which made us all want to rush home and try some out for ourselves. A number of Stony Stratford in Bloom volunteers are tempted by the idea of creating an exotic garden in Stony Stratford, provided that a suitably sheltered spot can be found.

Stony Stratford in Bloom funds are the greater by £18 as a result of donations from the audience, and we were also able to sell eight copies of this year’s horticultural quiz, which has been devised by the Barretts, last year’s winners.

25 January 2014

Wolverton Road Recreation Ground Makeover

Building on last year’s work to enhance the Wolverton Road Recreation Ground, Stony Stratford in Bloom volunteers have been busy this year too. Though the Town Council has decided against trying to gain Green Flag status for the park in 2014 it has not ruled out applying in the future, and is keen to work with Stony Stratford in Bloom to improve the environment here. Stony Stratford in Bloom hopes very much that the Projects Committee will be interested in applying to the Royal Horticultural Society the following year so momentum is not lost.

A swathe of red poppies to commemorate the First World War

Preparations have already begun to achieve a stunning red curved bed of wild poppies to commemorate the First World War in the park. Mary Sarre marked out the bed, and Milton Keynes Council sprayed the ground. First attempts to dig the soil by hand proved quite arduous, so first Mary Robinson and Robin Nicholls lent their rotavator to help Ray attack the rather solid ground; and then when the clay proved resistant to this assault, Ray hired a more robust rotavator, and he and Robin completed this strenuous task. The poppy seeds had been donated by Ann Ashcroft and Karen Parker from the Wolverton Road Allotments. The poppies were mixed in with sand, and raked in, and the plan is to keep sowing every two weeks so the poppies flower for the length of the growing period. Derek Gibbons has created a poster for a sign which will explain to passers-by the significance of the poppies.

A crescent of shrubs to form a barrier at the Queen Eleanor Street boundary

As the whips that were originally planted for this purpose didn’t thrive because of over-hanging trees, the Committee decided to plant a crescent of shrubs further forward alongside this boundary for health and safety reasons. Ray and Robin used the rotavator Ray had hired for the poppy bed to prepare the ground for these shrubs, which will be planted later in the spring.

Ten Big Tree Plant trees For the Wolverton Road Recreation Ground

On 18 January the ten flowering trees were planted that form part of the Town Council’s Big Tree Plant in Wolverton Road Recreation Ground. Stony Stratford in Bloom volunteers formed the backbone of the working party for digging in the trees that Keith Tilley had laid out. In addition, Concillor Mick Allsopp was also present, and has been a volunteer at virtually all Big Tree Planting sessions that have been arranged. It was particularly encouraging to see quite a few very young volunteers helping.

Close links between Stony Stratford in Bloom and Wolverton Road Allotment Association on this project

Stony Stratford in Bloom is delighted about the close links that have developed between members of the Wolverton Road Allotment Association and this project of improving the Wolverton Road Recreation Ground. Some years ago Karen Parker and Sue Bryant created what has become known as ‘the driftwood bed’ on the boundary of the park with Wolverton Road. They have now more clearly defined the bed from the grass area and it’s looking good. Look out for some spring bulbs to appear there – and also further into the park after Stony Stratford in Bloom’s ‘Wild about Gardens’ bulb-planting event last autumn.


A number of residents have been concerned about dog-fouling in the park and in other parts of the town. The Town Council has been discussing the issue, and the Neighbourhood Action Group has applied for funding to mount a campaign to address this problem. One resident of Stony Stratford has taken the initiative of starting a Facebook Campaign against dog-fouling, and Stony Stratford in Bloom applauds these moves to deal with anti-social behaviour by those who don’t control their hounds.

22 January 2014

Plans for a sumptuous sea of beautiful bluebell blooms take shape

Though the bluebells that we’ve planted in previous years in the Bluebell Wood at the end of London Road have looked most attractive when they’ve peeped out each spring, there was a general feeling among Stony Stratford in Bloom committee members that it would be even more satisfying to have a gorgeous sea of blue (or at least, a carpet rather than a small rug-sized patch of these lovely blooms) to delight the eye. So this year we decided to devote some of what we raised from last year’s fund-raising events to buying a thousand bluebell bulbs in the green.

Fortunately we had arranged work parties to prepare the ground for the onslaught of bulbs in the week beginning 13 January as the bluebells arrived on Mary Sarre’s door-step unexpectedly on Monday, 20 January. (We’d assumed they might be coming in March). It was no easy task to clear the ivy, which had a tight grip on the soil, but Julian Lambley is famous in the group for always having the right tool for the task in hand – and with a lethal scythe cut a swathe through the wood, which a larger work party a couple of days later cleared and dug.

Mary Sarre had a plan for planting clusters of the new bulbs through the wood, and on 22 January a large band of volunteers gathered to trowel in the thousand bulbs. There should be a treat in store for passers-by as April gives way to May, the time of the annual Bluebell Party for the children of the MySpace Children’s Centre.

11 January 2014

Big Tree Plant orchard for York House

York House Community Gardens volunteers and Stony Stratford in Bloom volunteers joined together for a marathon Big Tree Plant at York House on Saturday, 11 January 2014. With the sun shining out of a blue sky, the birds trilling, and the church bells ringing, twenty-nine volunteers planted twenty-four trees in a mere hour and a half. There was a certain amount of slithering about in the mud after the recent rain, but the work was made vastly easier as Alain Welch, Iain MacInnes and Bruce Messenger had prepared the ground beforehand, taking out the unwieldy roots and digging about half of the holes needed.

Keith Tilley had carried out the huge task of collecting the trees from the nursery, and matching the twenty-four to their locations at the back of York House via a numbering system and plan, and after some brief guidance from Alain and others, the volunteers set to work – some loading up leaf mould from the paths into wheelbarrows, others digging and planting. As always, we were very grateful to Julian Lambley and his mattock, which unearthed an enormous tree root – so enormous that the mattock bent in the course of the root’s removal.

Alain had originally planned the orchard a few years ago, choosing a wide variety of fruit trees – Bramley apples, plums, damsons, pears – and also a pantry for the birds with crab and wild cherry – and this wish list went into The Big Tree Plant bid.

Iain MacInnes had arranged pilates exercises for volunteers at the start of the morning to help loosening up, and brought drinks and crisps around half way through. For those who wished, there was a £5 token from Muffins towards an all-day breakfast.

The York House Community Gardens groups will maintain the orchard, and in autumns to come there should be a plentiful harvest of all these wonderful fruits for Stony Stratford residents to pick.

To see what we did in previous years go to Stony Stratford in Bloom 2013 Second Half, Stony Stratford in Bloom 2013 First Half, Stony Stratford in Bloom 2012 Second Half, Stony Stratford in Bloom 2012 First Half, Stony Stratford in Bloom 2011, Stony Stratford in Bloom 2010 or Stony Stratford in Bloom 2009.

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