"It is a daunting task' - new face of horticultural group on 'growing' its success
PUBLISHED: 11:30 11 November 2019
He has big boots to fill, but the new head of Bury St Edmunds' horticultural organisation Bury in Bloom has aspirations to grow its success further.
David Irvine beat off competition from about 60 applicants for the high-profile role of Bury in Bloom co-ordinator, replacing Stephen Moody and before that Melanie Lesser, who stepped down after six years.
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The market town has scooped many floral competition awards over the years for its Abbey Gardens displays, colourful hanging baskets and community initiatives.
Mr Irvine, 69, said taking on the leadership of Bury in Bloom was a "daunting task", if for no other reason than the high level of achievement in the past.
"I have got an organisation that's been amazingly successful under people like Melanie Lesser and Stephen Moody.
"I take over from them an organisation that's working extremely well. They have got gold awards left, right and centre. Where do you go?"
Mr Irvine, who is originally from North Yorkshire, said for 40 years working in agriculture as an agronomist he was paid to make things grow and produce big yields.
"I hope and pray I can do the same with Bury in Bloom", he said, not without humour.
Mr Irvine, who moved to Bury in 2010, said they want to keep on winning prizes, and hopes they can once again reach the Royal Horticultural Society's (RHS) prestigious Britain in Bloom competition.
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Bury scooped a gold award in the large town category at the national RHS competition in 2018 following success at the regional stage, Anglia in Bloom.
But unfortunately this year, despite the town winning a gold award at Anglia in Bloom, it has not been put forward for Britain in Bloom for 2020.
Mr Irvine added regional judges now place greater weight on 'environment' and 'community' than before.
"The rules have changed and we have to change how we work," he said. "We will do a lot more work with schools and the community generally."
He said he is very much still in the "meet and greet stage" as co-ordinator and is busy trying to work out priorities and new objectives for 2020 and beyond.
On the hot topic of environmental impact and carbon footprint, he said Bury in Bloom had already taken some action, but they are working on "achievable aspirations" such as using 100% peat-free compost and rainwater-only watering systems.
"We are investigating installing rainwater holding tanks centrally located. Unfortunately Bury St Edmunds' low annual rainfall is something we can only live with as every local gardener knows. We hope to achieve at least 50%."
Electronic water carriers, similar to golf buggies, is another aspiration to water all 400 to 500 hanging baskets and Mr Irvine said they hope to begin discussions with authorities in the near future to achieve this.
As he embarks on his new role, he said Bury in Bloom was an organisation with "massive good will behind it and thankfully, for me, there are large numbers of enthusiastic like-minded supporters - both voluntary and professional - ready to help".
"There are lots of people who know the town better than me so I need all the help I can get. If I get it wrong, you'll all be the first to know - I'll have to 'leave town' - so it concentrates the mind on getting it right", he said, again with humour.