Usk in Bloom volunteers are celebrating their 40th consecutive year of planting and looking forward to their ’ruby summer’ as one of four Welsh finalists for the Royal Horticultural Society’s Britain in Bloom 2020 competition.

Seventy cities, towns and villages UK-wide will compete across 11 categories after being assessed on their horticultural, community and environmental efforts.

Nearly two-thirds of finalists this year are participating in town, city or other urban categories, reflecting growing recognition of the importance of plants and green spaces for both people and the planet.

Usk joins Colwyn Bay, Denbigh and the villages of Mathern, Mounton and Pwllmeyric in pursuit of the prestigious prizes.

Each finalist will be visited by a pair of RHS judges in August as they vie for a medal, a category win and to be named Champion of Champions.

Usk in Bloom chairman and former town mayor Tony Kear said: "Things have moved on a lot in 40 years. The competition was originally all about floral excellence, where the judges were assessing entries for their hanging baskets, window boxes, pots and planters. But now the term ’in bloom’ is a bit misleading. The marks are divided into 40 per cent for flowers and 60per cent for community participation.

"There’s a new focus on environmental issues - on the sustainability of entries, the recycling of plants, the way we use water and the work done to reduce our carbon footprint.

"We also encourage all ages to get involved, from the diehard gardeners, some aged over eighty, to schools, youth clubs, cricket and football clubs and members of the Young Farmers’ Club. We even have the nursery school kids growing vegetables and sunflowers.

"The volunteers are not just flower lovers either but DIY-ers, fundraisers and others who want to enhance the beauty and sustainability of the town so that visitors stop here and spend their money.

"We’ve added a ’Your Street in Bloom’ contest to encourage people to look after what’s been planted.

"Britain in Bloom has more competitors and it’s getting tougher to win but we always believe we can."

In fact Usk has won Wales in Bloom Large Village 38 times, Britain in Bloom six times (and twice runner-up Champion of Champions) and in 2018, the highest accolade of all, Communities in Bloom (World) Small International Category.

"We need to find around £15-18,000 every year, which comes from a grant from the town council plus fundraising efforts like raffles, coffee mornings, quiz nights and farmers’ market. Our biggest event this year will be a concert at St Mary’s Church given by Pendyrus Male Voice Choir in May."

But all the hard work has major economic benefits for town’s like Usk where high street businesses are struggling.

"Our spin-off event, Usk Open Gardens, held over a weekend in June attracted 2,000 visitors last year and raised £20,000 for good causes," said Tony.

So the group are planning another big effort this year - and more volunteers are always welcome. For more information visit