Amis was wrong: Aberdeen wins Britain in Bloom competition

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The Independent Online

Four years after the author Martin Amis outraged the people of Aberdeen by referring to their city as "one of the darkest places imaginable - like Iceland", the granite city has proved the writer wrong by being crowned this year's Britain in Bloom winner.

The city beat Tameside, the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, Stockton-on-Tees and Oxford in the annual Royal Horticultural (RHS) Society awards for gardening displays.

Aberdeen took the city category and the gold award - the highest RHS accolade - with judges singling out the city's flowers, trees and parks. The awards also recognised the efforts made by Aberdeen City Council, businesses, community groups, children and volunteers in helping to create lasting improvements to the environment.

"Aberdeen provided an outstanding combination of brilliant bedding and floral displays, wonderful trees, parks and borders and numerous lovely gardens and commercial displays," said Clive Addison, of RHS. "The countryside areas were well-managed and the community was involved in the decision-making and active, hands-on management of many features in this vibrant city."

Amis's remarks have not been forgotten in a city which prides itself on being the oil capital of Europe and birthplace of a number of modern technological advances. The 57-year-old writer of works such as London Fields and The Information made his comments without having visited the city, yet he was not alone.

The American travel writer Paul Theroux caused outrage with his book The Kingdom By The Sea, in which he described the food as "disgusting", the hotels "over-priced" and the pubs "full of drunken, bad-tempered men". He also said it was "a cold, stony-faced city, over-cautious, unwelcoming and smug" and populated by "the most unbearable Scottish stereotypes".

The writer Christopher Brookmyre also pilloried the city in his 2001 novel A Big Boy Did It And Ran Away. Brookmyre, a Glaswegian, described Aberdonians as "greedy, humourless, ungrateful, conceited and whingeing".

At the time local dignitaries and tourism officials decried the comments as unjust, claiming that the city was a "vibrant city" where people wanted to live because of the standard of living.

The city, which was also recently awarded top prize in the Scotland in Bloom competition - an award it has won 38 times, boasts 45 parks, 30 countryside sites within the city boundary and a coastal footpath.

Other winners in the RHS competition, the largest of it kind in Europe, included Brightlingsea in Essex, which won best town, while the award for best village went to Norton-in-Hales, Shropshire. The 65 finalists were judged throughout the summer by touring RHS judges looking for the quality of floral displays, permanent landscaping, sustainable development, local environmental quality and public awareness. "We are delighted to see the wonderful results this year," said Andrew Colquhoun, RHS director-general.

The granite city

* Since 1593 Aberdeen has had two universities.

* It is the birthplace of the first holographic 3D camera, the MRI scanner, the UK's first iron lung and the first chair of medicine in the English-speaking world.

* At least 30 other towns and cities share the name.

* The world's oldest documented transport company - The Shore Porters Society of Aberdeen - was founded in 1498 and is still trading.

* More medieval coin hoards have been found here than anywhere else in Britain.

* The Houses of Parliament Terraces and Waterloo Bridge are built from Aberdeen granite.

* The self-seal envelope was developed here.

* Its shipbuilders built Thermopylae the world's fastest sailing boat.