LOTTE Inch does not have a lot of inches for plants or flowers at her York home: only a yard with plenty of pots.

“I’m a vegetable gardener, and last night we had pak choi out of the ‘garden’, or at least the pak choi that the caterpillars hadn’t eaten,” says Lotte, curator of this week’s all too brief Bloom! festival, celebrating 250 years of horticulture in York, or, more specifically, the Ancient Society of York Florists, the oldest of its kind in the world.

Organised by Make It York in York’s summer of festival after festival, Bloom! blossoms tomorrow, only to wilt on Sunday, like cut roses in the summer heat that will accompany this resplendent one-off event.

Lotte, by the way, runs Lotte Inch Gallery, in Bootham, one of a host of galleries participating in the festival, alongside her mother’s book store, Janette Ray Booksellers. See the What’s On section of The Press website for a full focus on the Bloom! exhibitions.

On Tuesday, Lotte could be found, spray bottle in hand, putting the finishing touches to A Congregation Of Trees, an installation of Willow, Weeping Beech, Golden Rainfall and Acer trees that has taken root amid the pews of the Priory Church of the Holy Trinity, in Micklegate, the only pre-Reformation monastic building still in use in York.

Trees have been fitted with bird boxes housing a motion sensor soundtrack of bird song and leaves rustling in the breeze, recorded by Tom Maynard, of The Sounen Project in York, over 24 hours in John and Fe Crompton’s private woodland near Pocklington in April, to add to the peaceful atmosphere.

“A Congregation Of Trees is an amazing recreation of the natural world in an unexpected setting,” says Lotte. “Open daily from 10am to 4pm during the festival, with free admission, it’s a one-off opportunity to explore the Priory Church through new eyes and glory in the sounds of nature as you walk beneath the branches. This installation is typical of the rich and varied ways in which the people of York have been inspired to celebrate the glorious heritage of the Ancient Society of York Florists.”

Bloom! not only will revel in York’s horticultural heritage and showcase present activity across the city, but also highlight York’s little-known gardens and green spaces and expand the festival’s boundaries to take in parks, county estates and gardens beyond the borders of York.

York Press:

Maggie Bradshaw, aged three, from Hessay, reaches out for a branch at Tuesday's Bloom! festival launch of A Congregation Of Trees at Holy Trinity, Micklegate, York.

"I like trees because Mummy makes pear crumble from the pear trees in our garden, and apple crumble from the apple trees," says Maggie, daughter of Jo Bradshaw, gallery manager at Lotte Inch Gallery, in Bootham, York.

"I like trees because squirrels climb them. I like trees because birds sing in them and have nests in them. I like trees because some of them have flowers." 

The four-day programme involves 70-plus regional businesses and more than 100 fringe events connecting horticulture with art, music, literature, cinematography, gastronomy and science.

Among the highlights will be the Ancient Society of York Florists’ two-day annual summer flower show of roses, sweet-peas, geraniums and floral arrangements in Parliament Street, along with large floral installations, a farmers’ market and a one-day flower market in Paris and Barcelona tradition.

A Vegetarian Street Food Market, known as The Vegetable Patch, will provide sustenance for the body; an urban village green, replete with real grass, meadow flowers and white picket fence, will take over St Sampson’s Square with the help of WowGrass, from near Whixley.

A Trail of York’s Hidden Gardens will unearth the secret/less visited green spaces behind the walls of York buildings on self-guided tours, while the horticulturally-themed Bloom! Window Dressing Competition, run by York Conservation Trust, has attracted such responses as giant paper flowers, a window filled with wheelbarrows and a tree emerging from a shop front.

The International Garden Photographer of the Year exhibition is running already in Museum Gardens, where yoga in the gardens, story-telling and a family festival on the oft-forgotten Library Lawn alongside York Explore Library also can be enjoyed too. Look out for a second family hub of activity at York Theatre Royal too, with Little Viking events.

York Press:

Bloom! festival curator Lotte Inch sprays a tree in the A Congregation Of Trees installation amid the pews at Holy Trinity, Micklegate, York. Picture: Charlotte Graham

Coney Street will be transformed into the Curious Realm of Floribunda, with plants and flowers interspersed with fabric creation; the Miniature Magic Garden Competition on Library Lawn will see 30 small-scale gardens being created by York primary schools in wheelbarrows.

A Secret Garden designed by Nicola Berry and Camilla Grayley is taking shape on the terracing next to York Theatre Royal, marking this week’s start of rehearsals for the summer family show, The Secret Garden, from July 27 to August 25. Further pop-up gardens will also be appearing at Exhibition Square and in St Helen’s Square.

Parks such as West Bank Park, once home to the “Kew of the North”, James Backhouse & Son’s Nurseries, hotels including The Grand Hotel and The Principal and York allotment societies will host their own programme of events, from story-telling sessions and afternoon tea with a floral twist, to garden-themed film screenings and children’s activities.

Workshops, talks and demonstrations from industry professionals will be held in the city centre with celebrity Royal florist Simon Lycett the guest of honour on Friday, judging the window-dressing finalists and hosting a two-hour demonstration at Bootham School.

“I’m really pleased about how many people have taken on board what I wanted to achieve with Bloom! and really embraced its spirit,” says Lotte. “Even if you’re not a gardener, everyone benefits, even subconsciously, from being surrounded by greenery and flowers.

“Curating Bloom!, I’ve been surprised just how many people are involved in gardens in the city, and not only is gardening good for your well being – when I have time I could happily spend all day in the garden – but especially at a time when there’s so much doom and gloom, there’s something wonderfully bohemian about this festival. It’s a relief from what else is going on: fun and enjoyment on your doorstep.”

York Press:

Holy Tree-nity! Lotte Inch looks up at A Congregation Of Trees at Tuesday's Bloom! launch. Picture: Charlotte Graham

WHY is Bloom! taking place?

* THE Bloom! celebration of horticulture and flowers in York marks the 250th anniversary of York being home to the Ancient Society of York Florists, the oldest florists’ society in the world, with records dating back to 1768.

* The society is unique in still retaining the word "florist" in its name, referring back to when only florists’ flowers were accepted at horticultural shows and florists grew flowers purely for their beauty, not to sell or arrange, but to exhibit.

*Bloom! also celebrates York’s horticultural heritage, notably pioneers such as botanist James Backhouse & Son's Nurseries and George Russell, developer of the Russell Hybrid Lupin. 

* The festival is organised by Make It York, supported by the York Business Improvement District and dozens of businesses and organisations. For more information and the full programme of events, visit or