Raymond Blanc Calls on Communities to Grow Organic

Sunday 13 October 2013


11 October 2013



EMBARGO: 12.01am, 13 October 2013


Home-grown is better option to shop-bought fare, says world-famous chef as RHS Britain in Bloom 2013 results are announced

NB: Please don’t approach any finalists until after 11pm on 12 October 2013. They do not know what they have won until the night of the Awards Ceremony. Please call the RHS press office and we will assist you in your story. Contact details below


Raymond Blanc helped RHS Britain in Bloom finalist – Team London Bridge – create a herb garden in April

Last night, the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) revealed the results of the Oscars of community gardening. To coincide with this, world-renowned chef Raymond Blanc is calling on communities to grow their own fresh produce as a healthier, safer option that could help ease hardship for families in deprived urban communities who have difficult choices to make when buying food.

Raymond helped launch ‘Edible Britain’ in April, the theme of RHS Britain in Bloom 2013, in which 1,000 mini allotments were set up in public spaces across the UK including inner-city London, Manchester, Glasgow and Newcastle and are now being harvested and enjoyed by communities.*

The RHS drive to get communities to grow their own was championed last night at the prestigious annual RHS Britain in Bloom UK Finals Award ceremony when Bath received the ‘Edible Britain’ award for embracing the campaign across the city and many finalists were recognised for their efforts, like Woolton (Liverpool) who impressed judges with their allotments and won the Urban Community category and Lytham (Lancashire) who won RHS Champion of Champions 2013.**

Raymond, who in the summer joined Watlington in Bloom, an RHS Britain in Bloom 2013 finalist, said: “Many children in Britain are going to school hungry because their families can’t afford to buy supermarket food. This is happening when there are public spaces that aren’t being used in cities and towns around Britain.

“There are great examples by RHS Britain in Bloom groups like 2013 finalist The Meadows in Nottingham – residents took charge of a fly-tipping site and turned it into an organic farm which serves 7,000 local people in the area. They are growing delicious fresh fruit and vegetables with no chemicals or energy being wasted on transportation, people are eating healthily and children are learning about the origins of their food.”

Guy Barter, RHS Chief Horticultural Advisor, said: “Eating home-grown fruit and vegetables is important for two key reasons. Firstly, we waste an unbelievable amount. The latest figures suggest around 15 million tons of food a year gets thrown out and 50 percent of this comes from our own households. Not only will people simply be less inclined to discard produce that has been grown in their back yard, or in the local community, but also appreciate the effort and care needed to grow food and value it more.

“Another good reason is the quality of the food grown in this way. While, realistically, home-grown food is not going to put farmers out of work, consuming fresh produce close to where it is grown saves transport and packaging, and of course food will be fresher. It will of course also often be cheaper which will benefit low-income families who struggle to meet the rising costs of supermarket food.”

77 RHS Britain in Bloom 2013 finalists celebrated their results in Cleethorpes last night but these towns, cities and villages are just the tip of the ice burg when it comes to community gardening. In total, there are more than 3,300 Britain in Bloom groups who look after an estimated 2 million acres of public space. More than a third are responsible for regenerating disused land into food-growing areas for the benefit of the whole community.

For more information about RHS Britain in Bloom visit rhs.org.uk/communities.

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For more information please contact Ed Horne on 020 7821 3356 (07776 193226) or edhorne@rhs.org.uk

Case studies:

  • RHS judges recognised the success of Arkwright Community Gardens, located in one of the most deprived parts of Nottingham – The Meadows. Local residents transformed a disused site that had once been popular with fly-tippers into a community growing haven in which a huge and exotic array of vegetables and crops are cultivated. Arkwright serves an estimated 7,000 local residents, from all quarters of the community including Sudanese, Pakistani and Kurdish, who are now able to buy fresh, untainted produce. One RHS judge said, as a community garden, Arkwright was ‘perhaps the best such example of in the whole of Great Britain’ and that the management of the garden ‘with no chemicals and an intent to become fully sustainable, with no outside inputs, is outstanding’. The Meadows received a Silver-Gilt medal in the Urban Community category.
  • Bath was awarded Gold in the City category, and was also recognised for its commitment to championing communities growing their own. In 2013, Bath’s popular visitor attraction Parade Gardens, famous for its high-quality horticulture and innovation, was transformed into a visually impressive edible garden with a border containing purple kale, artichokes and runner beans interspersed with herbs and ornamental bedding. Fruit, herbs, edible flowers and vegetables that don’t get snapped up by visitors and local residents are donated to a local homeless charity in the area.
  • As well as 6000 community gardening groups and affiliated societies, the RHS also works with two thirds of UK schools – nearly 17,500 – helping an estimated 3.5 million children grow fruit and vegetables at school. Christ Church C of E School in Wandsworth, turned an abandoned area of land into a growing area that pupils affectionately call ‘The Secret Garden’. The Head Teacher secured planning permission and with the help of local residents, including a band of fire-fighters, and the RHS, the school set up a number of raised beds which were donated by M&G’s RHS Chelsea Flower Show garden and are now growing fresh produce for the whole community. The garden has been such a success, that Ofsted inspectors made a note of the role it plays in helping pupils’ wellbeing.


  • In Yorkshire, a homeless charity is creating a kitchen garden with funds from the RHS. Keyhouse supports more than 5000 homeless people in Bradford. A recent survey revealed that before the project began, only half of service users could afford to buy fresh produce and just 2% got their 5 portions of fruit and vegetables a day. The drop-in centre is based in a deprived area with very little growing space and the kitchen garden has been developed on a previously neglected piece of land. As well as providing service users an opportunity to develop new skills and, therefore, to build confidence, it is providing fresh produce for service users to eat.
  • London Bridge (Southwark) was joined by Raymond in April when he helped the Urban Community plant up raised beds. The group has been working with Groundwork London holding weekly workshops with local residents on growing food and the nutritional value of fruit and vegetables and has been encouraging people to grow food in their own window boxes and balconies. Bournemouth transformed a traditional flower display into an edible bed made up of flowers like nasturtiums. Raymond Blanc joined Watlington during the summer helping to plant up two large community herb boxes. The community group Edible Wilmslow in Bloom have started planting up hanging baskets with produce like cabbages and volunteers in Moseley , Birmingham, planted an edible wall for passers-by to help themselves.

*The RHS provided 1000 gardening groups and schools with 30,000 edible seed packets including Carrot, Parsley, Onion, Nasturtiums, Mustard, Chives, Thyme, Spinach, Radish, Garlic etc.


**Full list of RHS Britain in Bloom 2013 finalists:


** Communities looking to transform land in order to grow organic food should consider joining the RHS Britain in Bloom campaign. This will give them access to both RHS advice and to a network of regional Britain in Bloom advisors who recommend the steps needed to get planning permission and offer clearing and planting advice on how to make the most out of disused land.


Notes to editors

About RHS Britain in Bloom

RHS Britain in Bloom is the UK’s largest community gardening campaign, involving more than 300,000 people. As part of RHS Britain in Bloom – and its sister campaign, RHS It’s Your Neighbourhood – volunteers in cities, towns, villages, urban communities and neighbourhoods work together to improve their local environment, using gardening as a tool.

To find out more, visit: www.rhs.org.uk/communities

About the RHS

The Royal Horticultural Society was founded in 1804 by Sir Joseph Banks and John Wedgwood for the encouragement and improvement of the science, art and practice of horticulture. We held our first flower shows in 1820, were granted a Royal Charter in 1861 and acquired RHS Garden Wisley, the first of our gardens, in 1903. From our first meetings in a small room off London’s Piccadilly, we have grown to become the world’s largest gardening charity. Today the RHS is committed to providing a voice for all gardeners. We are driven by a simple love of plants and a belief that gardeners make the world a better place. 200 years on we continue to safeguard and advance the science, art and practice of horticulture, creating displays that inspire people to garden. In all aspects of our work we help gardeners develop by sharing our knowledge of plants, gardens and the environment. RHS membership is for anyone with an interest in gardening. Support the RHS and secure a healthy future for gardening. For more information call: 0845 130 4646, or visit www.rhs.org.uk/join

RHS Registered Charity No. 222879/SC038262

Latest press releases

About the RHS

The RHS believes that gardening improves the quality of life and that everyone should have access to great garden experiences. As a charity we help to bring gardening into people's lives and support gardeners of all levels and abilities; whether they are expert horticulturists or children who are planting seeds for the very first time.

RHS membership is for anyone with an interest in gardening. Support the RHS and secure a healthy future for gardening. For more information call: 0845 130 4646, or visit www.rhs.org.uk

RHS Registered Charity No. 222879/SC038262