GREEN-FINGERED community groups turned out in force for the Borders’ first Spring Seminar which helped launch this year’s Floral Gateway competition.

The annual contest is judged across three areas – floral presentation, cleanliness, and community involvement.

Scottish Borders Council hosted the seminar earlier this week which was attended by more than 20 community groups.

Speakers from a range of organisations and charities provided information and advice to local groups on a variety of topics including biodiversity, sustainable food production and potential funding streams.

The seminar reflected on the changes made last year to grass cutting maintenance, the alternatives to bedding plant provision to be made this autumn, and biodiversity and new wildflower areas due to be introduced.

Groups were given the chance to discuss specific proposals in their communities and creative ideas for the future which was supported by speakers who offered evidence of how groups can play their part.

Wilton Lodge Park volunteer co-ordinator, Lisa Brydon, discussed the challenges of introducing food production to the park’s famous walled garden with her army of volunteers.

John Wilkinson from the Borders Beekeepers Association explained the benefits of wildflower meadows and reduced grass maintenance for a variety of wildlife.

Karen Birch of the charity Abundant Borders talked about their work to provide affordable food for Borderers and their willingness to work with community groups across the region.

SBC’s communities and partnerships manager Shona Smith offered information on a wide range of funding streams available, and the help her team can offer.

And, Andrew Hogarth of East Lothian Council’s amenity services team discussed their move to hardy annual or perennial flowering plants which are relatively inexpensive and help enhance biodiversity in their area.

Councillor Sandy Aitchison, SBC’s executive member for neighbourhoods and locality services, said: “The first ever Scottish Borders Spring Seminar proved an excellent opportunity to engage with communities on a range of topics.

“The speakers provided the groups with plenty of imaginative ideas and highlighted how working together can ensure we all play our part to maintain our beautiful region for local people and visitors.

“We are also now focussing on improving the biodiversity of the Borders and we would like to hear from more community groups or organisations who want to engage with us on this topic.

“This includes any groups wanting to enter the Floral Gateway awards.”

The Floral Gateway 2019 closing date for entries is May 31 with the ceremony taking place in September.

This year marks the 20th time the awards have been held in the Scottish Borders, recognising the efforts of communities to maintain the region.

There are five classes which communities can enter that are based upon the area’s population size, ranging from Wee Village to Town.

Entries can be made now, with details and forms available at