Gardening experts from the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) arrived in Rochdale today to judge the town’s planting power.

Judges spent the day being shown how community groups and the council have worked together to create inspiring displays.

This year Rochdale in Bloom has taken inspiration from the First World War, to mark its centenary and honour the 16 million people who died in the conflict. Poppies – the nation’s symbol of remembrance – have been placed on lampposts across the borough, silent soldier silhouettes have made an appearance at memorials and planting schemes are symbolic of the time. Two major new installations have also been designed, a pop-up garden and permanent war memorial.

Along the way judges met members of the public, school children and business owners who each demonstrated how they are working to make Rochdale borough greener and more pleasant.

Rochdale in Bloom has inspired an ever-increasing number of volunteer organisations to take up the clean and green challenge. Among the ever-increasing number of volunteers in Rochdale are primary and secondary schools, community groups and charities, Friends groups, as well as individuals who brighten up their streets and businesses. Volunteers come from every corner of Rochdale with representatives from 4-94 years old.

The council’s cabinet member for environment, Councillor Neil Emmott, said: “The competition is not just about what we can do as a council, but concentrates on community-led projects which show the pride that many businesses and residents have in their local area. This year has seen a big change in the types of displays Rochdale in Bloom have put together. It’s not about hanging baskets or bedding plant displays anymore but about pushing the boundaries of sustainability, conservation and health and wellbeing. I would like to thank all those who have given their time and who have worked so hard to make this our best year ever.”

Roy Down, chairman of Rochdale in Bloom, said: “Our members use their time, expertise and sheer determination to bring colour and life to the whole of Rochdale. Some have a passion for food growing, others a flair for creating blooming displays. Together, we have been working hard once again this year to ensure the area is as attractive as possible for the community and visitors.”

Rochdale in Bloom is being judged for the finals of the ‘Small city’ category. The medal each finalist is awarded will be announced at the RHS Britain in Bloom awards ceremony in Belfast on 19th October.