Green fingers and their owners were under startersâ€™ orders today as the 29th Translink Ulster in Bloom competition got underway.
Launched this week (at Downpatrickâ€™s Ballydugan Mill) by Translink, the Northern Ireland Tourist Board and the Northern Ireland Local Government Association (NILGA), the competition is open to all villages, towns and cities in Northern Ireland, with judging taking place during July and August.
Speaking at the event Translink Chairman, Mrs Veronica Palmer encouraged the 121 participants in this yearâ€™s competition to give free rein to their creativity and competitiveness in order to impress the judges and produce their best blooms to date.
â€œWe are amazed each year by the dedication and attention to detail of all the Ulster in Bloom contenders, not to mention the vast number of hours that go into planting, pruning, watering â€“ and occasionally talking to plants! â€“ in order to produce the best results.
â€œHowever the beauty of the Ulster in Bloom competition is that the fruits of our entrantsâ€™ labours are not just competition entries, but also provide enormous pleasure to local residents and tourists to Northern Ireland.
â€œI would like to take this opportunity to pay tribute to all those with an interest in gardening who use their talents in this way to the benefit of the wider community.â€œ
NILGA President Sean McPeake added: â€œThe heart of the competition is about caring for the environment and itâ€™s lovely to see cities, towns and villages clean, tidy and tastefully decorated with flowers, shrubs and trees. There is no entry fee to participate and NILGA would like to call upon every council and community to give the Competition the support it deserves and warmly congratulate all those councils already involved.â€
Mr Patrick Stapleton, NITB Board Member said; â€œSince 1979 this event has grown to become a household name across Northern Ireland. Who would have thought back then that the event would become so successful, or indeed that Northern Ireland would be named as a must-see travel destination by the worldâ€™s leading travel publication, Lonely Planet?
â€œThe Ulster in Bloom competition is an invaluable tool in attracting visitors; it also ensures that their stay in Northern Ireland is even more pleasant. On behalf of the Northern Ireland Tourist Board I would like to congratulate and thank all of the partners involved in organising this event which seems to go from strength to strength every year,â€ he said.