Fifty years ago, the spadework had been done for the launch of a competition to encourage North East communities to brighten up their localities by using their gardening skills.
In its first year in 1964, Northumbria in Bloom attracted seven entries.
And yesterday saw the launch of the 50th anniversary competition in a ceremony at Newcastle Racecourse.
In the running for trophies this year are 60 cities, towns and villages in the region.
Northumbria in Bloom has also branched out to include the In Your Neighbourhood programme, a non-competitive scheme in which communities are graded on their efforts, however modest.
Entrants can progress up the rankings and last year there were 187 participants.
The Growing Together for Schools campaign runs through June, encouraging children and young people to learn about and enjoy gardening.
In the last 50 years of Northumbria in Bloom, thousands of volunteers and millions of plants, trees and shrubs have lifted the quality of the environment on people’s doorsteps.
And now the competition is more important than ever as councils trim back their horticultural efforts and close flower shows because of budget cuts.
“Northumbria in Bloom encourages communities to work and grow together, especially now that the days of municipal carpet bedding and big displays are almost gone because of the cuts,” said competition chairman Mrs Eileen Burn.
“It is vital that people are encouraged to do what they can. Over the years, behind the flower bed and hanging baskets, has been an army of bloom volunteers working to produce what people see.”
At yesterday’s event were competition stalwarts who have devoted decades to the competition, including honorary life president Mrs?? Kenneth Clark from Hexham and Walter Dinning, former Gateshead parks superintendant.
Mrs Burn said: “This is a year to celebrate all the cheer that Northumbria in Bloom has encouraged in the region since 1964.
“The growth continues with the amazing community and volunteer-led developments that we discover in our judging tours.
“We hear wonderful stories of communities that have come together and are growing together with the shared enjoyment of gardening.”