Friday, 1 June 2007


Julie warned me not to go to the Tidy towns Annual General Meeting in Buncrana last week. “They will set you on doing something” she wisely commented. I went anyway and as predicted I came out of the meeting with the rather exciting position of Public Relations Person, (with two other people, thankfully). This means that it is our responsibility to positively promote the initiative throughout the summer to gain some valuable points when the judges sneak into town sometime in June or July. The points are getting harder to get each year as towns across the country increasingly improve their areas. Inishowen are doing very well as a whole because the towns are more or less on par with other towns that have far more revenue to spend on projects. There are so many positive improvements in all the towns this year that I’m sure with the hard work and determination of the committees and voluntary workers; Inishowen will be a force to reckon with.

At an earlier meeting I was recruited to help out with the Buncrana Gardening Competition. There are plenty of opportunities to win prizes and best of all this year it will be free to enter! I am aware that I am neglecting other towns in the peninsula (sighs of relief from other committees!) so to counteract this point I would like to give some pointers to help you when it comes to entering the competition in your own town.

I devised a checklist to help me decide who the winners were when I judged a competition last year. I gave a total mark out of a hundred. I did find that a lot of people lacked confidence when it came to their own gardens. I don’t know why this is, maybe it is because of familiarity and the grass is always greener in someone else’s garden. I can assure you though that every garden has a distinct personality and even a pile of old logs or old wooden furniture can be turned into a feature as a haven for wildlife!

Please just use the following list as a guide for the competition. The judges who assess your garden will also have their own method of picking their favourites and they will probably have different tastes to me

Overall design-Hard Landscaping.
This section looked at walls, raised beds, paths and included a point or two for consideration to neighbours. 20 points

Features in scale.
Here I checked out the overall look of the garden and assessed if each feature complemented another and was in scale. I also looked at ease of access throughout the year. 10 points

Year round interest and good use of space.
The shrub planting for all year interest was looked at. Other features such as focal points that draw your eye into the garden all through the year were assessed. The good use of space within the garden was also looked at. 20 points

This included anything different from the usual lawn and borders. Points were given for features such as children’s areas, use of water, attracting wildlife, use of natural or recycled products and any thing else that caught my eye. 10 points

Soft Landscaping.
This category included the positioning of summer plants, herbs, shrub borders, vegetable patches, compost bins, sheds and any other features such as trellis. I also gave a mark for hard or unusual plants that were in the garden. 20 points

Lawn Quality.
The lawn was assessed to see how well it was maintained. Points weren’t given to moss or reed covered lawns but I did give points for lawns that were being used for recreational purposes so it didn’t matter if there were a few bald patches. (I have enough of those myself!) If there was a small town garden without a lawn I looked at the general quality of the floor covering and marked accordingly. 10 points

Hanging baskets and Containers.
Here I looked at the colour scheme (As I said earlier this is all down to personal taste so I was never harsh with the points given). The condition of the plants is much more important and I marked that accordingly adding points for regular watering, feeding and deadheading. 10 points

Don’t feel as though you have to have hanging baskets and containers to be in with a chance of winning. Most judges will mark you up on other areas if you don’t have them. Some people feel that these sorts of containers should be confined to small town gardens and shops. Again it is all down to personal taste. The main thing to remember when entering the competition is to have fun.


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