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Could Your Town be as Pretty as Your Garden?

Just as a pretty garden makes you happy, beautiful plantings in cities make a difference. In this article, read about towns in a national awards program that recognizes excellence.

Contributors: Evelyn Alemanni

Each summer, lots of private gardens delight with gorgeous displays of color. In some very special cities across North America, horticulturists also make every effort to do the same, providing parks with that extra pizzazz and downtowns with an inviting ambience that benefits visitors and businesses alike. The benefits are amazing! Studies at major national and international universities have shown that people surrounded by quality landscapes often have lower blood pressure and are less stressed. Patients in hospitals who have a view onto a green space heal faster.  Beautiful landscapes can even help make places safer by reducing crime and vandalism.

Other studies have demonstrated that an area’s physical beauty helps connect people to it.  (For resources and articles, please see and click on the Community Resources tab.)

World-class cities like Chicago, IL are known for great horticulture (photo left below - Window boxes at Chicago city hall.)  Smaller towns, like Vernal, Utah, (population 9,200) also know that having great flowers is good for business. More than 1500 planters and hanging baskets filled with petunias and other cultivars line their main street (photo middle below - Cobblerock Park, Vernal, Utah). Their planting program is so popular that residents sign up in September to help on the city’s planting day the following May.


In Canada, towns like Niagara on the Lake have become destinations because of their glorious flowers. Barrie, Ontario, is just one of the many towns that has standardized the use of Proven Winners plants because of their hardiness (two photos below).

As an America in Bloom judge, this year I saw more Supertunia Vista Bubblegum planted than ever in climates ranging from a chilly zone 2 in northern British Columbia to swelteringly humid Washington, Missouri. This petunia is a winner in every climate and forms an enormous mass of brilliant flowers that perform all season long (photos below - Visitor Center in Fort St. John, British Columbia, Canada and Stratford, Ontario, Canada).


What is this “judging” about? Each year, teams of specially trained judges evaluate participating towns across North America for America in Bloom and Communities in Bloom (Canada). Similar programs are offered in Europe. These awards programs acknowledge overall excellence: participating towns are judged in the areas of tidiness, community involvement, environmental awareness, heritage preservation, urban forestry, landscaped areas, floral displays, turf and groundcover.  Winning an award is certainly a prestigious recognition of a commitment to quality of life (photo below - window boxes at a restaurant in Kingston, Ontario, Canada). 

This year, the America in Bloom awards will be held on October 6 - 8 in the Washington, DC area. White House head florist, Laura Dowling, will be one of the keynote speakers and will talk about the importance of flowers at the White House. Everyone is welcome to attend. For registration info and to register your town as a participant, go to

This article was written and photographs provided by Evelyn Alemanni. She is an international judge for America in Bloom and Communities in Bloom (Canada), and is the author of “Ten Years of Best Ideas”, a book about the best practices of America in Bloom towns. Her garden has been featured in Better Homes & Gardens; Gardens, Decks and Landscapes; Southern California Home & Garden; San Diego Home/Garden Lifestyles, and many more.

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