People across Gwent have been hard at work to create stunning floral displays for you to enjoy, FRAN GILLETT reports.

AS Usk makes this year’s final of Britain in Bloom, gardens across Gwent are celebrating their plant and flower displays whether in city spaces or nestled away in the countryside.

But behind the scenes of these impressive floral displays lies months of meticulous planning, as gardeners and landscapers plan colour schemes and order in plants and seeds.

In spring, Newport’s grassy verges are transformed into rows of flowerbeds, with this year’s theme being wildflowers and gardeners planting extra poppy and cornflower seeds to celebrate the World War One centenary.

Richard Wood, Senior Landscape Officer at Newport Council, who is in charge of the city displays, said planning starts early for the next year.

He said: “We plan ahead the year before so we know what seed mixes to get in. The main point is to make a lot of colour and to make all different kinds of flowers visible.

“This year we’ve been looking at wildflowers and cultivated ornamental species because we want to help encourage the areas’ ecology and biodiversity.”

It is the third year Newport Council has planted these displays, and Mr Wood said the project has grown since the start.

He said: “We’ve included more areas since year one, and people often suggest areas. They have their own ideas of where flowers should go.

“We have two grounds teams, one for east and one for west of the river. They do all the normal maintenance work but the weather determines when we can sow and plant.

“We get a lot of compliments from the public, last year we had 80.”

Councillor Ken Critchley, cabinet member for infrastructure, said: “We know from the positive feedback we receive that the urban meadow flowers continue to bring pleasure to so many people.”

Gardener Paul Lane said planning at Dewstow Gardens in Caerwent near Caldicot, Monmouthshire, is equally as thorough.

He said: “It takes a heck of a lot of effort. There are two of us who work part time and who take care of everything

Our biggest challenge is getting all the plants planted in time. May is probably our busiest time as it is the cross over between Spring plants and summer plants.

He gave the example of the dahlias, which have to be taken out and replanted by the end of May, sometimes having to plant up to 400 in just one day.

Mr Lane, who enjoys keeping his own garden at home, said: “We get a massive range of people who come in, we get the staunch, serious gardens who come to look at all our schemes and layouts. Then we have those who just come in for a picnic.”

The Rogiet gardener said in the early autumn he starts thinking about next spring and what bulbs to order in.

He said: “You can’t stand still on the same thing for too long so we change every year. Most of the time I’m inspired by my favourite colours and favourite plants, but try and mix it up with different textures, for example in layman’s terms I will put a spiky plant next to a bushy plant.”

Usk, which qualifies for the Britain in Bloom and the Wales in Bloom competitions, also is home to a keen committee of gardeners and flower fans.

Judges from the Royal Horticultural Show will visit Usk on Tuesday, August 5 as they tour 71 towns, villages and cities across the UK to find the best displays in Britain.

Tony Kear, Chairman of the Usk in Bloom committee, said: We have over 85 displays in the town and the main square is where the focal point and main display is.

Planning starts in November when we organise the colour and plants choice. We order them in and then we go and plant them in the nursery and then put them in by the end of May.

Usk in Bloom is a charity and counts 28 volunteers who give a total of around 600 hours of their time in preparation for the event.

All the funds needed for the bulbs and maintenance is raised through donations and an annual auction which this year raised £5,700, but running costs can sometimes reach £10,000.

Mr Kear said: “We regard ourselves as a virtual company as we want to bring visitors to Usk.

“We usually choose our flowers based on themes, so this year we had an Usk Butterfly theme which fits in with the overall RHS theme of pollinated flowers. Our main display has a mixture and includes begonias, marigolds, dragon wing begonias and lysimachia.

“We’ve had extremes of weather this year so watering is a big challenge in the hot weather, but this year we got in hubs with water in so the plants have a constant supply.

Usk also hosts an Open Garden event which invites residents in the town to open up their private gardens for visitors to have a nose around.

Heather Brogan, Usk Open Gardens coordinator, said: “It takes quite a lot of work to organise the Usk Open Gardens event. The preparation for each garden depends on the garden but I started mine about a few weeks before the event.”

For the gardeners, it is clear to see the feedback from the public and visitors makes all the planning and planting worth the effort.

But for Paul Lane the best thing about gardening is something different. “It’s sitting back once it’s all done, looking at your work and having a beer at about eight o’clock at night,” he said.