All summer, gardeners in 44 communities across the country that entered this year's America in Bloom contest have weeded, watered, and waited to see if their efforts would beat out the competition. America in Bloom sent teams of judges to each place over the last few months, and at last the organization has just announced the award-winners for 2019. These are the towns and cities judged to be the best overall by population size as well as the most outstanding in categories such as floral displays and environmental efforts. Then there's a set of special awards for qualities like best use of containers, coolest place for kids, and most beautiful canopy of trees. Beautiful blooms and landscaping are a must, of course, but the competition also focuses on the innovative ways that residents work together to improve their communities with plants.
“The communities in the America in Bloom program vary dramatically in size, demographics, resources, and climate,” says Laura Kunkle, executive director at America in Bloom. “But they all share the same goal—to make their communities more beautiful, vibrant, and strong.” According to America in Bloom, the nonprofit that organizes the annual contest, more than 20 million people in 245 communities have seen their towns transformed thanks to their involvement with this program since it began in 2001.
Here are the America in Bloom award winners for 2019.
Courtesy of America in Bloom
Population Category Winners
Towns that participate in the America in Bloom national awards compete in tiers based on their total population. Volunteer judges evaluated each one based on seven criteria: Overall impression, community vitality, environmental efforts, heritage celebration, urban forestry, landscaped areas, and, of course, flowers. The 11 winners in this category excelled at improving their community in all seven categories this year:
- Washtucna, WA, population under 900
- Owen, WI, 900 to 1,200 tier
- Lewisburg, WV, 1,200 to 4,000 tier
- Brewton, AL, 4,000 to 6,000 tier
- Hawthorn Woods, IL, 6,000 to 10,000 tier
- Estes Valley, CO, 10,000 to 12,000 tier
- Washington, MO, 12,000 to 14,000 tier
- Warrenville, IL, 14,000 to 17,000 tier
- Tavares, FL, 17,000 to 22,000 tier
- Calabasas, CA, 22,000 to 30,000 tier
- Holland, MI, 30,000 to 45,000 tier
Courtesy of America in Bloom
Outstanding Achievement Award Winners
For communities that have gone above and beyond in specific areas of judging, America in Bloom hands out eight outstanding achievement awards.
- St. Michaels, MD, Community Vitality
- Castle Rock, WA, Flowers
- Logan, OH, Landscaped Areas
- Greendale, IN, Urban Forestry
- Hawthorn Woods, IL, Environmental Efforts
- Madison, MS, Overall Impression
- San Luis Obispo, CA, Celebrating Heritage
- Winter Park, FL, Community Involvement
Special Award Winners
America in Bloom's special award categories are secret every year, and they're always changing, so the 10 towns that were honored in this category were truly surprised. This year, the judges handed out awards for the best pollinator program, the best use of social media, and more:
- Greenwood, SC, Coolest Place for Kids
- Lewisburg, WV, Eye-Popping Pots—Best Use of Containers in the Landscape
- Ridgeland, MS, Tree-mendous Trees—Most Beautiful Canopy of Trees
- Newtown Square, PA, Water Warriors—Best Example of Protecting Water Resources
- Holland, MI, Life of the Party—Best Community Celebration
- Wadsworth, OH, #CatchingCommunitySpirit—Best Use of Social Media
- Hawthorn Woods, IL, Cultivating Inspiration—Community Mentoring Award
- Tavares, FL, Innovation in Action—Most Impressive New Project or Program
- West Chicago, IL, Bee Happy—Best Pollinator Garden Program
- Logan, OH, America in Bloom/All-America Selections Showcase Garden
America in Bloom is already gearing up for next year's contest, with a registration deadline of February 28. A passion for gardening certainly helps if you’re interested in entering your community for it, but even if you're not ready to jump straight into competing for the top prize, starting small can make a big impact, too. Many of the communities that participate in the America in Bloom program began with a modest team of volunteers pulling a few weeds in a park or working once a week in a community garden. Plus, America in Bloom's website is loaded with resources and inspiration to point you in the right direction, such as a guide to the benefit of plants and its Growing Vibrant Communities volunteer program.
As the 2019 award-winners show, a little beautification can go a long way toward making where we live even better through gardens and nature. And while prizes are always nice, the real reward is in connecting people through a love for their town. “There is no doubt that flowers, plants, and trees make a town more beautiful and thriving, but it’s the people who are driving real change in communities across the country,” Kunkle says.