Blooming marvellous plans for Norwich
It may be cold, grey and bleak outside but an army of dedicated volunteers are already planning how to make Norwich bloom in just a few months time.
In the springtime, Norwich's roundabouts, parks and road sides will become a kaleidoscope of colour as brightly coloured flowers blossom.
Planning for the project, which sees more than 50,000 bulbs planted in and around the city, begins up to a year in advance by a group of volunteers known as the Friends of Norwich in Bloom.
There are 15 members on the committee and over the year, they help coordinate the planting of bulbs and bedding of plants, run competitions and maintain the Assembly House's pristine garden.
Every autumn, with help from Norwich City Council and community volunteers, the Norwich in Bloom team plant thousands of new flowers to add to the existing carpets of colour leading to the city centre.
Plants are grown at Norwich prison, City College Norwich and Hockering Nursery.
Next month, the army of workers and volunteers will then start filling flowers beds in the city's roundabouts, sheltered housing schemes, churchyards and by the side of the roads. They will also fill the barrier baskets on traffic islands and the flower tubs at the rail station.
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Bill Webster, ambassador of the Friends, said: 'It makes the city look so beautiful.'
About 24,000 plants are grown at Norwich prison which are used for sheltered housing, 11,000 are grown at the city college to be used for the Mall gardens, Chapelfield and more sheltered housing and 14,000 flowers, grown at Hockering Nursery, adorn the city's roundabouts and streets.
Terry Bane, chairman of the Friends and Norwich City Council's horticultural officer, researches what plants are available, how they perform and suitability to planting locations.
He said: 'I listen to and work closely with the gardeners who skilfully plant the tender plants and care for them throughout their short but colourful lives, together we learn what plants will do well at every location. I also work closely with sponsors and groups, using colours and designs to reflect the image of the business or celebrate a event.'
A team of volunteers also look after the Assembly House with support from the city college, Green Fingers and the gnome team.
As well as helping with the planting, the Friends of Norwich in Bloom take on the role as 'The Bloom Quest' Champions aiming to help Norwich achieve recognition by entering Norwich into the Anglia in Bloom, Britain in Bloom and Nations in Bloom competitions
And the Friends organise schools projects where children are encouraged to be involved in wildlife conservation, to take pride in their environment and to garden and be outdoors. Maureen Street, 69, of Thorpe St Andrew, who together with Jo Chiddick liaises with the schools, said: 'The schools are really nice, the teachers are lovely and the children love it. It's really encouraging to see schools taking an interest in gardening.'
As well as Norwich City Council, the Friends of Norwich in Bloom are supported by partners Visit Norwich, the Assembly House and Notcutts.
Are you helping to raise the profile of Norwich? Call reporter Kate Scotter on 01603 772326 or email email@example.com