Now that Washington in Bloom organizers have returned from the national America in Bloom symposium, they’re ready to reflect on comments provided by the judges for the city of Washington.

This was Washington’s third year of participation in the contest, which promotes nationwide beatification through education and community involvement by encouraging the use of flowers, plants, trees and other environment and lifestyle enhancements.

Washington received the highest rating in the contest, a five bloom rating. It also was given the highest award in the nation for its urban forestry program.

Each year, Washington in Bloom organizers are given an evaluation form with praise, comments and suggestions from national judges.

Sally Bocklage, WIB co-chair, said the information is “invaluable” and will be used for future improvements.

In general comments, judges noted that “It is an inspiration to witness the level of community involvement your Washington in Bloom efforts have brought forth.”

Judges also applauded the city’s efforts to celebrate agriculture in the Fair and to see agricultural fields within the city limits.

The city was judged in six areas: floral displays, landscaped areas, urban forestry, environmental efforts, heritage preservation and overall impression.

A brief overview of each criteria is below.

Floral Displays

Judges said Washington has well-placed floral displays and excellent planters. They called the hanging baskets “terrific” and said the banners add a festive air of celebration.

“Lafayette Park is a gem that is planted and maintained by the Washington Garden Club. The design has all the elements of a well-designed landscape including balance, harmony and diversity,” the evaluation says.

It suggests that the park be used as a model for other pocket gardens throughout the city.

Landscaped Areas

“Landscaping is the key to the Washington in Bloom group,” the evaluation says. “It has been like a snowball, gaining speed and volume as time goes by.”

The judges commended the overall design and suitability of landscape materials and said projects are outstanding in their use of plant material.

Judges complimented Krog Park and suggested planting some low growing perennials to surround and highlight the main sign at the park.

The judges also complimented the Mercy Hospital Healing Garden, calling it a “jewel” and an asset to the health care facility.

Phoenix Park, the river bottom prairie planting and library landscape were lauded and judges said the city should replicate the same type of plantings in other areas of the city.

Judges called the Angel of Hope garden a “moving sacred place where loved ones’ memories are honored.” Judges said the garden is elegant and serene.

Washington was encouraged to explore community gardens and to establish a main site for a community garden. Judges also suggested planting a period-style kitchen garden at the Koh-mueller House.

Urban Forestry

Judges commented on the “well designed and planted native trees and shrub demonstration garden” at the Water Tower Park.

“This brilliant space is an asset to the community; residents can come here year round to look at the different species to help them decide what trees and shrubs to plant.”

Judges complimented the Rotary Riverfront Trail.

They said Washington’s tree guide is “the best tree guide we have seen” and said it should serve as a model for other communities.

Phoenix Park was given praise as a “gem” to the community.

Environmental Efforts

Environmental efforts include sustainability practices, recycling, policies and bylaws, sustainable development strategies and many other environmental standards.

Judges said it is impressive that Washington has a high level of involvement in environment and sustainable practices.

They commented positively on the wastewater treatment plant, recycling centers and green waste containers given to residents.

The judges also patted Washington on the back for its preservation of historic buildings and with its green landscape practices.

Heritage Preservation

Judges commented that Washington does an incredible job of celebrating its history through the preservation of its buildings and the effective placement of monuments.

Judges were pleased that there are six historic districts on the National Register of Historic Places.

They liked that the historical society operates a museum. Judges commended volunteers responsible for maintaining Krog Park.

Overall Impression

“The overall impression of Washington is of a clean city where everyone — municipal government, businesses and residents — are all dedicated to creating beauty with plants, presering beauty in their historic buildings and proudly working together to accomplish miracles in their city,” the report reads.

Volunteerism in the community was praised time and again in the document.

The full evaluation will be added to the Washington in Bloom website. A link can be found on the city’s website, under the “America in Bloom and Washington in Bloom” heading.