Four days of floral spectacles will see a village green, hidden gardens and even a floral boat blossom in historic York during a new flower festival marking the 250th anniversary of the Ancient Society of York Florists, the oldest of its kind in the world.  The brain child of Make It York, the festival is supported by York Business Improvement District and dozens of local businesses and organisations.

Taking place from 5-8 July, Bloom! will celebrate York’s rich and varied horticultural heritage as well as showcasing activity currently happening across the city.  The jam-packed programme includes the involvement of more than 70 regional businesses and more than 100 fringe events connecting horticulture with art, music, literature, cinematography, gastronomy and science.  

“Inspired by the unique Ancient Society of York Florists, we’re bringing together green-fingered people, creatively-minded individuals and businesses, to create a festival which will celebrate York’s horticultural heritage and the equally vibrant activity taking place within the city today,” says Steve Brown, Managing Director, Make It York, which is organising Bloom! supported by York BID.

Highlights of Bloom! include:

  • The annual summer Flower Show of the Ancient Society of York Florists, sponsored by TalkTalk, will offer a two-day spectacle of roses, sweet-peas, geraniums and glorious floral arrangements in Parliament Street in the heart of York.  Here, at the festival’s core, visitors will also be treated to large floral installations, a farmers’ market and a one-day flower market.  
  • Whilst the flower and plant displays offer a feast for the eyes, a Vegetarian Street Food Market also known as ‘The Vegetable Patch’ will provide delicious sustenance for the body.
  • An urban village green complete with real grass, meadow flowers and white picket fence, will take over St Sampson’s Square with the help of WowGrass.
  • York’s Hidden Gardens: A Trail; will unearth the secret green spaces behind the walls of some of York’s great buildings. Visitors will be invited to take this self-guided tour of some of the less visited and often completely hidden gardens of the city whilst also visiting stunning secret gardens new to York this July.
  • Bloom! Window Dressing Competition: strolling round the beautiful streets of York, visitors will be treated to many horticulturally-themed windows created especially for Bloom! Whether it’s a floral installation, giant paper flowers, a window filled with wheelbarrows or a tree emerging from a shop front, York’s retailers know how to dress a window in remarkable style for visitors to enjoy day and night.  Sponsored by York Conservation Trust.
  • York’s First Floral Boat: Decked with flowers and greenery, The Captain James Cook will be sending charters out for the four days of Bloom! An ideal way to take to the waters and view the city from the River Ouse whilst taking tea upon York’s first floral boat – particularly apt given that 2018 is the 250th anniversary of the famous voyages taken by the boat’s namesake.  Created by the experienced hands of the New Dimensions Flower Club through the sponsorship of Ice Cube Consulting.
  • An outdoor exhibition of the International Garden Photographer of the Year set in York’s Museum Gardens and sponsored by NFU Countryside will pop up in one of the city’s most famous urban green spaces. Here too, yoga in the gardens, story-telling and a family festival on the oft-forgotten Library Lawn alongside York Explore Library will provide hours of fun for every member of the family.  
  • Coney Street will be transformed into the Curious Realm of Floribunda – visitors can expect traditional plants and flowers to be interspersed with fabric creations for a remarkable spectacle along one of York’s busiest shopping streets. Made possible through the sponsorship of GT Flowers Ltd. and the support of numerous businesses and individuals from the city.
  • Demonstrating that you don’t need a huge garden to engage with horticulture, the Miniature Magic Garden Competition on Library Lawn will see 30 small-scale gardens created by primary schools from across York in a series of brightly coloured wheelbarrows.  Sponsored by Hungate Regeneration with Yorganics and Stones4Homes Ltd.
  • By happy coincidence, a Secret Garden next to York Theatre Royal created to coincide with the production of the play of the same name will be opening up this July.  Sponsored by Northminster.
  • Further pop-up gardens will also be appearing at Exhibition Square, sponsored by Nestlé; and in St Helen’s Square, sponsored by McArthur Glen Designer Outlet.

Lotte Inch, who is curating the festival on behalf of Make It York, says: “The Ancient Society of York Florists was set up in 1768 as a forum for discussion about not only flowers, but horticulture in general.  With the increased popularity of home-grown produce, even after 250 years, their work – and the incredible knowledge of their members - continues to be relevant today.  It would be fantastic to think that through Bloom! we’re able to inspire another generation of gardeners to keep this Ancient Society running for another two and a half centuries.”

Visitors and residents will also be invited to vote for their favourite beer garden in the Bloom! Beer Garden Competition organised by YorkMix, while sampling a limited-edition Bloom! beer or sipping on a botanical gin and tonic with a garnish of herbs fresh from the garden.

Parks such as West Bank Park once home to the “Kew of the North “– James Backhouse & Son’s Nurseries, hotels including The Grand Hotel & Spa and The Principal and York’s numerous allotments societies will also host their own programme of events, from story-telling sessions, to afternoon tea with a floral twist, garden-themed film screenings, and children’s activities. Workshops, talks and demonstrations from industry professionals will also be held in the city centre with celebrity Royal florist Simon Lycett the guest of honour on Friday 6th July.

Curious visitors will be invited to visit York St John University to learn about botany - the science of plants. Here science and technology professionals from FERA, York St John University and Stockbridge Agricultural College amongst others, will be on hand to share their knowledge, host talks and events and even offer the chance to climb trees! 

The full programme of events will be available in June. For more information please visit or


Notes to Editors

Bloom! is a brand new festival taking place, 5–8 July, celebrating horticulture and flowers in York. York is home to the Ancient Society of York Florists – the oldest florists’ society in the world with records dating back to 1768, and this year it celebrates its 250th anniversary.

The society is unique in that it still retains the word ‘florist’ in its name, which refers back to the time when only florists’ flowers were accepted at horticultural shows and when florists grew flowers purely for their beauty, not to sell or arrange, but to exhibit.

Bloom! is also a wider celebration of York’s horticultural heritage including pioneers such as James Backhouse & Son’s and George Russell, developer of the Russell Hybrid Lupin.  The festival will shine a light on York’s little-known gardens and green spaces as well as celebrating local parks, county estates and gardens beyond the borders of York.

The festival is being organised by Make It York and supported by the York Business Improvement District as well as a variety of local businesses and organisations.

Media Contacts
For further information regarding Bloom! please contact: 
Jay Commins, Pyper York
Tel: 01904 500698 or 07810 546567
Lotte Inch, Festival Curator, on behalf of Make It York
BLOOM! York | 2018
Tel: 01904 848660

For any other Visit York media enquiries, please contact:
Kay Hyde, Head Of PR & Corporate Communications
Tel: 01904 554451
Mob: 07506 048852

About Make It York 
Make It York’s purpose is to develop and promote the city and its surroundings – nationally and internationally - as a vibrant and attractive place to live, visit, study, work and do business.  The company’s remit covers leisure and business tourism, city centre management, festivals and events, business support and inward investment.

Visit York is a part of Make It York and is the leisure tourism brand 
Under the brand Visit York, Make It York’s aim is to market York as a must-see world-class destination to the leisure visitor and ensure investment to develop the quality of tourism in York.

Key tourism facts:
6.9 million visitors annually, £564 million total visitor spend, supporting 19,000 jobs

About York BID

The York Business Improvement District is:

  • A business led partnership which aims to deliver improvements to the centre of   York;
  • Voted in by businesses (in York’s case 76% majority)
  • Not local authority led; schemes and programmes are in addition to services provided by City of York Council
  • Funded by a modest levy which goes into a fund to be spent on improving the centre of York
  • Now one of 200 operational BIDs across the UK including Leeds and Sheffield.