Transport for London (TfL) has revealed the winners of its annual staff gardening competition ‘In Bloom’. With an environmental theme focusing on people and the planet, this year’s competition reflects ambitious activity across TfL to become the strong green heartbeat of London.
‘In Bloom’ sees green-fingered TfL staff dedicate their own free time each year to create gardens at stations, depots, and offices, often in collaboration with local people and businesses. The competition launched more than 100 years ago at the time of the District Railway, and over the decades staff have made creative use of space on the transport network with flower beds, vegetable patches, hanging baskets and window boxes on platforms, balconies and in spaces as small as control room windows. The theme for this year’s competition was ‘Healthy Plants, Healthy People, Healthy Earth,’ in recognition of the increasing threats from climate change.
With 57 entries from across the TfL network, judged by more than 40 volunteers, the winners for 2023 were announced at an awards ceremony at City Hall.
The competition gives stations and their staff an opportunity to showcase their work and creativity. Plants are grown in various upcycled items such as old tyres, old food delivery crates and food containers.
Morden Tube station in south London scooped the Best in Show award, along with the Fruit & Vegetables category. Staff at the station have been growing fruit and vegetables on the station’s disused platform for around eight years, growing a wide variety of foods from sour cherries, chilli peppers and apricots to limes, kale and gooseberries, which are shared with colleagues and customers. They have also created a wellness meeting space, sheltered by flowers, for staff meetings.
North London’s Highbury & Islington station won in the Healthy Plants, Healthy People, Healthy Earth category. The small yet impactful garden situated inside the station entrance proves what can be done with a modest indoor space. Air-purifying plants such as ivy, kentia palms and peace lilies help to absorb pollution as well as to create a calming green oasis for the thousands of people passing through the station every day.
Almost a third of TfL’s circa 6,000-acre estate is covered by green vegetation, with a wide variety of habitats, from woodlands to wetlands, that support more than 1,000 animal species and almost 700 plant species.
Mark Evers, TfL’s Chief Customer Officer, said: “As a judge in our fiercely contested In Bloom competition, I am always so impressed by the fresh ideas, creativity and energy that staff and local people and businesses bring to these gardens, benefitting both staff and people travelling around the city. While the gardens bring an element of tranquillity, inviting Londoners to slow down and savour a moment in nature, this year’s theme reflects the increasing urgency of tackling climate change, and the pace at which we are working as an organisation towards a cleaner, greener transport network.”
The other categories and winners are as follows:
- Cultivated Station Garden – Acton Town station. A disused platform has been transformed into a riot of colour, growing plants in a variety of recycled containers. Sculptures and wind chimes enhance the sensory elements of the garden
- Environment – Northfields Train Crew Accommodation (TCA), where drivers take their breaks while on shift. The garden is designed around sustainability, with water butts to collect rainwater and compost bins. Most of the garden has been grown from seed or created from cuttings, and has been developed year after year
- Best Newcomer – Hammersmith Service Control Centre. In just a few months, a group of staff overhauled a disused area behind the building to create multiple planters and a gathering area for colleagues. The project brought the team together, introducing staff who work different shifts and wouldn’t otherwise meet
- Cultivated Depot Garden – Upminster TCA. This spacious and peaceful station garden holds memorial plaques for former staff who have passed away. Featuring a range of beautiful, colourful plants and a fig tree, and regular visits from hedgehogs and birds, it is a space where staff can reflect and take a break
- Indoor Garden – Blackhorse Road. A stunning garden created by station staff and with the help of the convenience store in the station and local businesses. With a cheerful feel and recycling message, the garden uses mix of artificial and real plants to ensure it lifts customers’ spirits
- John Knight Hanging Baskets, Tubs and Window Boxes Award – Hainault TCA. Train driver Julia Bryant transformed an outdoor area in just three months, making the most of small spaces with a range of tubs and baskets. Part of the garden is dedicated to a WW1 memorial
- Sandra Wilkes Community Award – South Tottenham station, London Overground. With the help of students from the local community, staff have transformed this large garden with range of flowers, vegetables and other plants, with painted roundels adding extra decoration
- Best Seasoned Entry – Barking TCA. Wellbeing is the focus of this garden, with staff putting great effort into making it a peaceful environment with crystals and a range of fragrant herbs. A water butt and compost bin add to the garden’s sustainability credentials.
Seb Dance, Deputy Mayor for Transport, said: “I am truly impressed by the dedication and creativity demonstrated by TfL staff at the annual ‘In Bloom’ competition. These gardens will bring a sense of calm and wellbeing to staff and people using the transport network.
“The threats of climate change are increasing day by day. The theme for this year’s competition illustrates that all of us can play our part in creating a healthier planet and supports the Mayor’s aim to continue building a cleaner, greener and more prosperous London for everyone.”
Protecting and improving the environment is a key priority for TfL. TfL’s recent Business Plan details a strategy to renew assets with more energy efficient equipment and materials, like LED lights, building insulation and materials with a reduced carbon footprint. Plans are also progressing for 100 per cent of TfL’s electricity to be sourced by renewable power sources by 2030.
Using innovative techniques, TfL has set a standard for levels of biodiversity on all its property, to measure progress in protecting, connecting and enhancing habitats and ecosystems, and to support the development of a biodiversity strategy.
TfL has more than doubled roadside area to be managed as wildflower verges, reaching the equivalent of 18 football pitches. Reducing the number of times verges are cut to twice a year allows more flowers to grow, promoting biodiversity. Street trees continue to be planted, with TfL maintaining its target of a one per cent year-on-year increase, bringing the total number of trees on the network to 24,581.
To help clear London’s air TfL’s Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) expanded in August to cover all London boroughs, bringing the health benefits of cleaner air to all Londoners. There are also currently more than 1,100 zero-emission buses in London, alongside more than 7,000 zero-emission capable taxis, with plans in place to decarbonise TfL’s head offices and TfL’s 2,400 other sites.
Photo credit: Transport for London