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As most Canadians watch their gardens thaw out after a long winter of snow and ice, British Columbia gardeners have seen many of their spring flowers come and go during a wonderful non-winter. Even with this dramatic diversity in weather, Canadian gardeners from coast to coast are preparing for the annual "Communities in Bloom" competitions which are judged in July and August.

Communities in Bloom is a non-profit Canadian organization committed to "fostering civic pride, environmental responsibility and beautification through community participation and the challenge of a friendly competition." It is designed to be a continuous community improvement program and is divided into distinct phases: Provincial, National and International. The program encourages involvement and action by citizens of all ages, municipal governments, local organizations and businesses. This national beautification program strives to improve the tidiness, appearance and visual appeal of Canada's neighbourhoods, parks, open spaces and streets through imaginative landscaping. Environmental awareness and preservation of heritage and culture are also important themes.

National beautification programs have flourished in Europe for decades. With this inspiration, Communities in Bloom began in 1995 with 29 Canadian communities. Now more than 100 national communities take part and hundreds of municipalities register in provincial editions.

Described as "more beauty than a contest," Communities in Bloom will send 40 expert, specially-trained volunteer judges across Canada during the summer to evaluate municipalities on eight key criteria:

  • Tidiness
  • Environmental Awareness
  • Community Involvement
  • Heritage Conservation
  • Urban Forestry
  • Landscaped Areas
  • Floral Displays
  • Turf and Ground Cover Areas

Provincial judges evaluate communities and award certificates with a rating of 1 to 5 Blooms (5 being the highest ranking) at a Provincial Awards Ceremony in the fall. The top two 4 or 5 Bloom communities in each Province will be invited to participate in the 2004 National Competition.

Since 1995, Communities in Bloom has been credited with both expected and unexpected benefits for participating communities and their citizens:

  • increase in civic pride, community involvement and property values
  • participation from all ages and all walks of life
  • citizens, groups, organizations, business and municipal government all mobilized and pulling together
  • process of continuous improvement for the whole community, year after year
  • information and cultural exchanges within the community and with neighbouring, national and international communities
  • decreased vandalism
  • economic development and increased tourism

    Every community is invited to participate in the provincial and national editions, within one of seven population categories, ranging from category one of 1 - 1,000 to category seven of 100,001 - 300,000. Communities with a population of more than 300,000 can enter directly in the national edition. There are also two special, sponsored awards -- Scotts for the Turf Criteria and NCC for Floral Displays -- that acknowledge exceptional beautification efforts. This competition is not based on population nor does it reflect the overall bloom rating. For instance, if your community does an outstanding job or has a unique method of maintaining turf and open spaces, sports fields, private citizens' property and commercial properties, then it could be awarded "Best Turf in Canada."

    Past CIB winners are"twinned" with past winners of international contests like Britain in Bloom, America in Bloom or Japan in Bloom to mentor the program, establish information and cultural exchanges.

    The City of Stratford, Ontario, proudly awaits the arrival of Communities in Bloom participants from across Canada and around the world that will be attending the National Awards Ceremonies and Symposium, "Dramatically Different," to be held in that city from September 23-28, 2003. Internationally renowned for The Stratford Festival, Stratford, with a population of 29,000, has more acres of parkland per capita than any other city in Canada along with several formal floral gardens, almost 100 municipal flowerbeds and several major formal park areas.

    Since resident participation is an important award criterion, pitch in on local clean-up days and lend a hand to tree planting programs. Increase your property value while you contribute to your community's beauty and make your own garden glow. To find out more about getting involved, check out the Communities in Bloom Participation Guide 2003.

    Yes, Canada, spring is finally here.

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