If you’re a grower, you have at least two great reasons to go to St. Louis this fall. One is to brush up on and perfect your plant production skills at the OFA Disease, Insect & Plant Growth Management Conference, Sept. 28-29. The second is to learn how your business can benefit from planting America In Bloom in your market during the ninth annual America In Bloom Symposium and Awards Program, Sept. 30-Oct. 2. Both events will be hosted at the Hilton St. Louis at the Ballpark in the heart of a beautifully planted downtown.
For nine years, growers and garden center retailers have led the way in getting their cities involved in the America In Bloom (AIB) competition. To date, nearly 200 towns and cities from 38 states have participated, touching a population base of more than 20 million people.
Cities compete in population categories and a pair of judges visits each entrant and writes a detailed evaluation. Judging season is May through August, with towns in warmer climates being evaluated first during peak season. AIB’s volunteer judges evaluate eight criteria: floral displays, urban forestry, landscapes, turf and groundcovers, community involvement, tidiness, environmental efforts and heritage preservation.
Towns with the best overall scores are recognized as population category winners. There are also criteria awards that recognize excellence within each of the eight judging criteria, for instance, the town with the best floral displays.
As the host city, St. Louis has a lot of horticultural expertise to draw from. Its Gateway Greening initiative driven by the regional green industry just landed a $50,000 prize from Pepsi. Missouri Botanical Garden is one of the oldest, yet most progressive, public gardens in the United States with environmental initiatives, like recycling plastic pots. President Emeritus Dr. Peter Raven will be the keynote speaker on Friday, sharing how to connect a botanical institution to the community. The next day, Anna Ball, president of Ball Horticultural Co. will present “The Power of Plants: Opportunities for Community Quality of Life.”
The two-day symposium will feature 18 educational sessions and three themed tours of the St. Louis area. One educational track was designed especially for people who are new to AIB and want to be informed before signing their cities up.
The registration deadline for next year’s competition is Feb. 28, 2011, but it can take months for a city to make the commitment to participate, just based on the nature of local governmental processes. Now is the time to plant the seed for next year. For more information about AIB and the symposium, visit AmericaInBloom.org.