Our Flower Patch

Inspiring a new generation of growers


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The No-Nonsense Guide to Green Parenting

Digging

We’re on the second year of our pilot outdoor learning and enterprise programme for primary schools Our Flower PatchThe more we work with teachers and their pupils, the more we have come to realise how unusual it is for some children to spend lots of time outside. When I’ve accompanied school trips or run gardening sessions in school there are a growing number of children who seem scared to venture too far away, seem anxious around mini-beasts and are afraid of getting their clothes and hands dirty. But when they get stuck in, good things happen.

WalkingAny opportunity to get out in the fresh air experiencing the simple pleasures of life, exploring and investigating at first hand is time well spent. The pressures of modern life, where often both parents work and teachers are concerned about getting through the increasingly proscriptive National Curriculum leave little time for free range learning and ‘wild time’. And parents and teachers are the first to feel guilty about it.

How refreshing then to come across a book for parents which opens up the possibilities of what can be done to ‘learn and play naturally’. The No-Nonsense Guide to Green Parenting is written by Kate Blincoe, former environmental educator, now mum to two growing children. Her ‘can do’ approach will strike a chord with anybody who wants to be that little bit greener, less wasteful and more creative in their approach to parenting. And, what’s more, you’ll find that many of Kate’s ideas are easy to achieve. You may even be doing some of them already.Cooking

The book covers everything from choosing toys, clothes and household products to cooking, growing, celebrating the seasons and getting out to explore the countryside. There are plenty of links to further resources and I’m particularly fond of the ‘grumpy granny’ sections – good old fashioned advice from someone who could be my own mother. It’s not rocket science, but in the craziness of parenting it provides reassurance that although it isn’t easy being green as a parent, getting back to the basics of natural play, gardening, cooking and taking walks outside with your children is achievable and good for everyone. If you feel swamped with the demands of modern living but want to take steps to get back to the simple things in life with your children, this is the book for you.

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The No-Nonsense Guide to Green Parenting by Kate Blincoe is published by Green Books and is available from October 8th. Readers of this blog can order from the publishers here using voucher code FLWR15 and get it for just £12.59 (RRP £17.99), and get free UK delivery on all orders. Offer valid 2nd October to 11th October 2015.

All images ©Phil Barnes


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The Crafted Garden by Louise Curley.

The Crafted Garden By Louise Curley

The eagerly awaited second publication by Louise Curley

Unfortunately I do not have as much time to read as I used to, apart from on holidays when I tend to lose myself in a grisly thriller by Tess Geritsen or Karin Slaughter. During the rest of the year the only things I manage to find time to read are horticultural books. They may be tending more towards the growing, top tips and advice about which varieties to grow for cutting, or more towards the arranging side of things. Not quite books, but I do also flick through bulb or seed catalogues to find new gems to grow in my own Flower Patch usually resulting in me selecting far too many “must have” tulip bulbs or dahlia tubers to grow. Obviously, they are all necessary purchases! One book I do find time to go back to again and again is the first book by Louise Curley “The Cut Flower Patch”. Avid followers of our blog will remember the review Cally wrote about it, if you missed it you can find it here. I still find it a source of inspiration and useful information. Therefore you can imagine I was eagerly awaiting Louise’s second book “The Crafted Garden”

The Crafted Garden is all about getting closer to natural items and using them to decorate our lives. Some of the projects could be used as decorations in your own home or to create items that could be given as very thoughtful gifts. Each project is thoroughly explained by Louise and beautifully illustrated with photographs by Jason Ingram. Each activity not only has a “How To” section explaining how to make the project, but contains background information and useful snippets about the plants, flowers, leaves or seedpods that are used to create it. The craft projects are arranged season by season, with plenty to get your teeth into in each section.

There are lots of projects that could easily be completed with children as part of your school garden group. There are also some that could be adapted to make them more child friendly, some projects may spark off an inspiration for you to take them in another direction with your garden group. But I’m sure you will gain many ideas from this book to give as gifts, for your home, school or for your sale tables at the Christmas and Summer fairs.

This is so much more than a garden craft book. By dealing with the horticultural elements of each of the “My Key Plants” used in each project, you will find out how to grow, propagate or be given suggestions of where to buy the plants used. As a grower I love this element of the book. It may mean that some of the projects take a bit longer to complete if you choose to grow the “ingredients” first from seed to complete an activity but that is all part of the journey of discovery. Rather than a tub of glue, glitter and stickers that will create something that is quickly discarded, some of the projects may live for weeks or longer, gracing your table or your windowsill, often with suggestions of then planting them into your garden to continue to grow and develop. It is all part of enjoying the changing of the seasons and appreciating what nature has to offer close up, kind of like the school nature table that so inspired Louise in her childhood.

Louise Curley - The Crafted Garden 01 (15th April 2014)

Delicate Spring flowers in eggshell vases.

One of my favourite activities is the eggshell vases. It reminds me of something I used to do as a child, but with the stylish twist of the weeping birch nest. A perfect way to see Spring flowers up close and remind us that the warmer brighter days are arriving.

The Crafted Garden by Louise Curley

Vibrant dahlias in squash vases.

I also love the squash vases. So bright and colourful and something I’ve not thought of doing with the ornamental or edible squash I grow most years. Perfect for a Harvest festival display in your home, or school. What a wonderful way of making just a few blooms look so special.

Louise also discusses responsible foraging, endangered moss and reminds us when flowers or plants are toxic. In a gentle way Louise helps us realise that creative projects can be made in such a way that they have a minimal impact on the environment. Reusing, re-purposing, recycling, re-creating and eventually composting your projects are all elements which are much discussed. Rather than traditional glitter why not use sugar frosting to bring a bit of sparkle to a Christmas table arrangement.

Louise has already inspired me to have a go at an unsealed terrarium. I potted up some offshoots of succulents into a variety of open topped glass containers. Here is one, as they say, I made earlier.

The Crafted Garden by Louise Curley

Succulent terrarium. Quick to make & very effective.

So if this review has inspired you to take a have a go at some of the projects in Louise’s new book take a look at the special offer we have for you. To order The Crafted Garden by Louise Curley at the discounted price of £13.99 including p&p* (RRP: £16.99), telephone 01903 828503 or email mailorders@lbsltd.co.uk and quote the offer code APG355.
*UK ONLY – Please add £2.50 if ordering from overseas.

Images extracted from The Crafted Garden by Louise Curley, photography by Jason Ingram. Published by Frances Lincoln.


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Ten tips for setting up a school garden.

nature and nurture in the school garden

nature and nurture in the school garden

Learning at school doesn’t just happen inside the classroom. It goes on everywhere. A school garden can be

  • an area for exploring and learning about nature
  • a way of improving health and well-being
  • a chance to learn essential skills like planning, risk taking, resilience, teamwork
  • an outlet for creativity
  • a  place where children who function less well in a traditional classroom can put abstract concepts into practice in real life situations

Setting up a garden is a no-brainer. All schools should have one but it needs someone totally committed to driving the project forward. Where’s a person to start?

If you are a teacher , teaching assistant or a parent volunteer thinking about taking that step, then you are probably feeling excited and possibly just that little bit daunted.

Step forward.

We salute you.

What you are about to do is a great and noble thing.

And so, as a reward for your bravery and commitment, here are the Our Flower Patch top tips for setting up a project to inspire a new generation of growers.

  1. Learn to delegate You’ll need horticultural knowledge,  “people skills”, common sense, enthusiasm, organizational ability and a flair for publicity. You have to to plan, manage, find resources, muster support, communicate with everyone involved, compile lists of garden tasks, plan inspirational lessons, keep everyone happy, motivate the team, and deal with problems. Unless you’re a superhero with no family commitments you won’t be able to do this alone. Gather together a team who can tick everything off the list between them. Older pupils can show younger ones what to do. Everyone likes to be needed. Delegate some responsibility to everyone involved and let them get on with it with support and advice. And remember that all our members benefit from the ongoing support of people who have run successful school gardening clubs in the past.
  2. Practice the art of recycling and upcycling School gardens do not need massive financial investment. We’ve lost count of the numbers of beautiful raised beds and greenhouses which have fallen into disrepair. Flowers can be grown in donated pots, tyres or even old compost bags. Milk cartons can be made into soil scoops and plastic bottles make really effective cloches and watering cans. We have dozens of ideas and you’ll soon begin to see opportunities for recycling in the most unexpected places.
  3. Embrace the idea that the process is more important than the end result Many people are wary of starting a school garden because they worry that things will go wrong. They will but that’s one of the positives as far as we’re concerned. Managing risks and trouble shooting problems are part of the deal.
  4. Remember there’s no such thing as bad weather, just inappropriate clothing Gardening is reliant on the weather but don’t shy away from taking groups outside all year round. Our programme has appropriate activities for every week of the school year. Ensure that your pupils are properly kitted out with warm, waterproof, dare we say even scruffy clothing in winter, hats and sunscreen in summer and every day can be a gardening day. The gardens of fair-weather gardeners quickly become neglected.
  5. Know that any space is enough space Even a couple of recycled plastic trugs outside the classroom door is a garden. Small space gardening has provided us with years of pleasure. Apple trees grow in oilcans or barrels. Strawberries do well in a hanging basket. A window box wildflower meadow can be a thing of beauty and a haven for bees. Don’t be ashamed to start small.
  6. Play to your strengths Study your raw materials and plan accordingly. Garden projects can fail because of lack of time, too few helpers or the vagaries of the site. If your only space lacks lots of direct sunlight, choose to grow shade loving plants. If you only have an hour a week in which to garden, plan accordingly for a low-maintenance garden.
  7. Appeal to the senses Memories are built on the sights, sounds, smells and tastes of the past. Build  happy memories for your pupils by planting a riot of colour, texture and scent. Add in some tasty treats and soothing sounds too and you’ll find there’s never a moment without someone out there, taking care of the garden.
  8. Go wild Welcome wildlife into your garden and not only will you be looking after the environment and improving the biodiversity of your school grounds but you’ll have a ready made science lab in which to conduct studies and a healthier garden.
  9. Blow your own trumpet Find as many opportunities as you can to publicise what’s going on in your little patch of heaven. The more you talk it up, the more people will want to be part of the party. You’ll spread the workload among a bigger pool of volunteers, children will take better care of it and the whole project will become truly sustainable.
  10. Make connections Gardening is all about making connections. Companion plants support each other and the same is true of gardening buddies who work side by side. It’s also important to make connections between the garden and what’s going on elsewhere in the school. Use the garden to teach aspects of the National Curriculum, to provide opportunities for some practically minded pupils to shine, to develop essential life skills which they can take back into the classroom. Really successful school gardens are right at the centre of school life, supplying the kitchens with food or school reception with a vase of gorgeous flowers very week. When you see a parent snipping a few herbs to take home to cook dinner, a toddler popping a homegrown strawberry into their mouth or a young boy clutching a bunch of schoolgrown cosmos to take home for his granny’s birthday, you’ll know that your idea to start a garden was awesome.

 

 


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30 things to do in the summer holidays

Poppies in a field on Salisbury Plain D Day Our Flower PatchWe’re taking a break over the summer holidays to enjoy family life, rest, relax and revamp our education programme for schools. Cally will be running some holiday activities at The Courts Gardens in Holt again and Sara will be tending her own flower patch but we hope to get through at least some of the items on our holiday bucket list.

In case you’re stuck for ideas we thought we’d share our ideas with you so we’ve printed it below.

We’ll tweet when we’re out and about I expect so keep in touch via Twitter or Facebook.

Have a lovely summer holiday and see you in September.

30 things to do in the summer holidays with flowerpatchers

  1. sow some biennials
  2. order bulbs for autumn planting
  3. make cornflower fudge
  4. brew up a comfrey potion
  5. eat scones with homemade jam
  6. munch on a petal salad
  7. make a tussie mussie
  8. dry some lavender
  9. collect a pebble from the beach and paint it to make a plant marker
  10. make basil ice cream
  11. read a book in a hammock
  12. go to an open air concert
  13. explore a roof garden
  14. wander round a stately home
  15. eat a picnic in a field
  16. collect some seeds
  17. go on a treasure hunt
  18. explore a beach garden
  19. pop some pickle in your pantry
  20. make a mandala
  21. feed a butterfly
  22. open a hotel for wildlife
  23. open your garden to bees
  24. turn your kitchen windowsill into an allotment
  25. start a nature journal
  26. snap some pictures
  27. make a beach firepit
  28. write your name on a pumpkin
  29. make bunting to decorate your garden shed
  30. mess about on the water

Check out our summer holiday pinterest board for further information


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Treats for the end of term

Flower posies to say thank you to teachers

Pretty posies to say thank you

The end of term is fast approaching. It will soon be the school holidays and  flower patches should be looking rather abundant. Why not make the most of them?  Use the opportunity to give your flowers a good cut before the summer holidays and use the results of your prunings to make up some beautiful posies to say thankyou to anyone who has helped you during the school year.

Use a jam jar, tin can or other suitable container. If there is time you could decorate them with scraps of fabric or pieces of ribbon or raffia. Cut buckets of blooms and have a play at arranging them together.

Bright flower posy for a teacher

All things bright and beautiful

Cutting back your flowers before the school holidays can reap benefits for you if you are away from your patch a lot over the summer. School patches are often neglected over the summer and home patches are left for weeks on end too when families are away on holiday.  Cut your plants back reasonably hard just at the end of term, and give them a really good water, preferably with a drop of feed too. Don’t leave any flowers in bloom and you have a chance of there still being some around on your return from holiday. (weather depending of course) The sweet peas are a bit of an exception and unless you are picking every couple of days then they will all go to seed. Invite friends and neighbours to pick them. Hopefully someone will be tempted by their gorgeous scent to come in and cut them. If not then they will form seed pods which will be ready for you to collect seeds in September and sow in October.

Sweet peas and snapdragons as a thank you posy

Making the most of the patch harvest


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Ten ways to acquire plants for free (or almost free)

Nigella seedpod

Nigella seedpod, fab in a vase and a useful source of free seed!

If there are a few gaps in your flower patch and no cash in your pocket to go out and buy some flowery treats to pop in for instant gratification, do not despair. Here are our top ten tried and tested ways to bulk up your garden, plot or school flower patch without spending much or indeed, any money and have a fun adventure while doing so.

Plants for free, you say? Show me where to find them.

Read on.

  • Find them on Freecycle

I love Freecycle and not just to read with amusement the weekly posts from the member of my local community who regularly offers cardboard boxes, jam jars and bits of string whilst simultaneously posting requests for expensive appliances because they have accidentally dropped theirs in the sink/washing machine/toilet/driven over them in the car/had them eaten by the dog……..

Over the years I have acquired and distributed numerous plants on Freecycle. Often you have to dig up the plants on offer, but that is no great hardship. What’s more you’ll probably make a gardening pal for life, whilst helping yourself to their largesse. Win. Win.

  • Save and swap your seeds

It’s quick and easy to save some seeds from easy to grow flowers like poppies, calendula, nigella and cerinthe. One plant has more seeds than you will need to use at once or in a whole season. Nature is extremely generous and prolific. Make the most of it. You can sow some seeds yourself next year and save some to swap with others. Collect seeds on a dry day. Store them in labelled brown envelopes in an airtight tin in a cool, dark place until ready to sow.

  • Cultivate those cuttings

Learn to take cuttings. A small piece of stem is all you need, a pot of compost and some rooting powder, if desired. Pull off all but the top few leaves. Lots of leaves will make the plant work hard keeping them alive when it needs to put its effort into producing more roots. Place your cuttings into a pot of moist compost around the edge of the pot. Cover with a plastic bag to ensure moisture is retained and wait for roots to form. You may need to remove the bag from time to time to ensure that condensation disappears and prevent ‘damping off’.

  • Delve into division

From time to time plants have a habit of outgrowing their allotted space and they look like they will benefit from being dug up and divided into more manageable chunks. Replanting a ‘chunk’ reinvigorates the plant and gives you a few more plantable ‘chunks’ to fill it spaces elsewhere  or swap with friends and neighbours for different plants. Simple.

  • Set up a plant hospital

Large DIY stores with garden sections almost always have an area where they have plants marked down for sale.  This may be due to their slightly less saleable (or virtually dead) appearance,  or a genuine clearance of overstocked plants at the end of the season.  Plants which are pot bound need to be repotted or planted in the garden after their roots have been teased out. Dead head and prune back unsightly brown growth, feed and repot or plant out. I’ve rescued numerous plants which were destined for the skip and no money has changed hands.

Supermarkets too may be happy to let you take away pots of unsold bulbs after they have flowered. Take them home and plant them in your plot. Let them die back naturally and they’ll pop up hale and hearty next season. If you say that you are running a school gardening club, they may well let you know when there are freebies going spare in the future.

  • Volunteer in a community garden or help your friends with a bit of arden maintenance

Asking gardening friends, neighbours, family or work colleagues for any plant cuttings, extra plants they don’t need or seeds they may have is one of the easiest ways to grow your garden for free.Pruning, dividing and removing plants that have gone to seed are regular maintenance activities for many gardeners each season.  These are also prime times to add to your own (or your school) garden from what is often plant material that will go to waste in someone else’s garden.

  • Make friends with the local plant nursery 

Sometimes flower farms, local growers and nurseries will advertise end of season, closing down sales or stock at reduced prices. They may be wanting to clear out a greenhouse or warehouse or make a space for new plants, some may have been in pots too long and others are excess stock. My daughter’s school had a magnificent tulip bed last year planted up with bags of bulbs from the Sarah Raven warehouse sale.

  • Raid the local restaurants and cafes

Most businesses replace their plants as the flowers fade. Start a relationship with the businesses in your area. Let them know that you are willing to take the unsightly plants off of their hands after they are finished blooming. You know they will bloom again next year in the garden if you give them some time and tlc!

  • Bulk buy

Club together with friends and neighbours to order bulbs and plants. It will bring the cost down and you might well be the lucky recipient of a few freebies into the bargain for putting in a big order. Higgledy Ben our seed supplier is king of stashing in an extra pack of seeds for good customers. Long may he reign.

Cerinthe seed

Cerinthe seed, not quite ready yet. It will fall easily from the plant when ready.

Cerinthe seed drying

Dry the harvested seed before storing it.


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Mud, mud, glorious mud

mudday-250x199

Getting muddy around the world

Usually the start of Wimbledon Fortnight and the end of the Glastonbury Festival is the perfect time to get down and dirty with mud, as the June skies cloud over and drop enormous quantities of the wet stuff on us all. However, this year our flower patches are more dust bowls than muddy puddles. It’s scorchio in Wiltshire and Cally is building up her muscles lugging full watering cans over to her allotment on a regular basis.

Nevertheless yesterday was an international celebration of all things muddy. International Mud Day was initiated by the World Forum Foundation, which aims to promote an on-going global exchange of ideas on the delivery of quality services for young children in diverse settings. It’s a great idea. Children love getting muddy and it’s a well known fact that fewer children are allowed to nowadays than in the past. Some children don’t own old, scruffy clothes, I recently discovered whilst working on a community painting project. 

As the World Forum Foundation highlights “studies have recently revealed the positive qualities of earth, soil, and mud. Science says that being barefoot is good for you. Mud has microscopic bacteria that soothes you, relaxes you, and calms you down. So that’s why it feels so good to kick off your shoes and socks!” And that’s why allowing children to dig in the soil, sow seeds, weed, nurture seedlings and get dirty is good for them too. We’d love to help you set up a gardening programme at your school which gets children in touch with the earth. Get in touch with the flower patch girls.