Our Flower Patch

Inspiring a new generation of growers


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Six ways for flower growers to celebrate May Day

Toby-Bowood-Matt-Austin

A picnic at Bowood House. Photograph by Matt Austin Images.

All’s right with the world. Linda Snell has located. the Archers’ Maypole in time for the jubilant May Day celebrations in Ambridge at the end of the week. We love a party at Our Flower Patch and even though you are unlikely to find either of us dancing round a maypole on Friday, May Day is the perfect time of year for flower growers to stop, take stock and celebrate their hard work before their plots reward them with oodles of flowery loveliness and the odd weed.

Sara started celebrating early this year when she did a flowery photoshoot at Bowood House in Wiltshire in preparation for Toby Buckland’s Garden Festival on June 5th and 6th. Along with Saffy from Bath Flowersshe’ll be arranging, selling and generally shouting about homegrown British flowers. Why not pop along and chat to them? Don’t worry if you live too far away, Cally will be reporting on the festival for our school Flower Patch members and readers of this blog, so you won’t miss anything vital.

In the meantime back to May Day and our six top ways to celebrate this fertility festival and the start of summer.

Decorate a maypole or May tree

Unlike us, your young growers will probably love the idea of dancing round a maypole as a break from all the frantic planting, sowing and weeding. You’ll need a pole about three metres high to which you attach long ribbons. Aim for the ribbons to be about ¾ of the length of the pole. Plant the pole in a hole deep enough to prevent it swaying. Decorate the top of the pole with flowers or greenery. Then you’re ready for willing volunteers to grab an end of a ribbon and dance in and out, winding the ribbons round the pole.

Alternatively, decorate the trees on your plot with ribbons to celebrate the time of year. Write messages of thanks or hopes for the coming season on the ribbon. And if you don’t have any trees or large shrubs, plant some. Try to make it something from which you can harvest foliage for your cut flower arrangements. We like viburnum, euonymus, pittosporum and eucalyptus.

Hold a bonfire party

Traditionally cattle were driven between bonfires on the eve of May Day to rid them of evil spirits and keep them safe from harm. If you’ve been clearing space, then you might have plenty of material to burn. Getting together around a bonfire is a good way to reward your garden helpers for their hard work in getting your plot shipshape and provide space and time to chat about plans for the future. Obviously food is just as important as fire in any festival celebration which brings me neatly on to my next point.

Pack a picnic or hold a ‘bring and share’ feast on your patch where everyone brings something they love to make.

No celebration is complete without food. If you’re lucky, you might even have a few homegrown early strawberries to munch on or, at least, some jam made from last year’s crop to spread on scones. May Day marks the start of summer to me and so some homemade lemonade might start to make an appearance. You’ll find the recipe here.

Make a flower crown or a daisy chain.

Flowers are a big part of any May Day celebration. Floral crowns can be used to crown a May Queen or just to give your young growers some valuable practice at working with flowers to make something beautiful. If you choose a May queen then her throne (chair) can also be decorated with seasonal flowers. Check back through this blog for more information about flower crowns.

If your lawn is anything like mine it’s full of daisies. I love them and my daughter loves them even more as she has a steady supply with which to make daisy chains. If you wear a daisy chain around your head past midnight on May Day eve, you can attract good luck.

 Give a basket (or bunch) of flowers to a neighbour.

We have plenty of tulips on our patch at the moment but what might be even more special is a packet of seeds to spread the flowery love. Higgledy Ben our seed supplier has a huge array from which to choose.  Just a couple of packs will be enough to start a love affair with cut flowers. Soon you’ll be devoting a whole bed to a cutting patch. It’s good for bees and good for you, giving you a steady supply of beautiful blooms to cut for the house and saving you money. May Day tradition is that you must leave your gift in secret. If your neighbour spies you, they can claim a kiss apparently – so choose the lucky recipient wisely!!

Sow some herbs

Any excuse to get outside enjoying your garden is good and growing herbs is a great way to kick start a growing habit which will last a lifetime. I’m a fan of any plant which has more than one use. Growing herbs was the start of my love affair with gardening. One of my earliest memories is picking mint from an old Belfast sink and watching my granny make mint sauce. Herbs are bee-friendly plants, easy to grow, fragrant, edible and some make fabulous additions to cut flower posies. Rosemary, dill, mint, lavender and lemon balm regularly find their way into my jam jar posies.

Rosemary sage narcissi

Herbs and flowers are a natural pairing in Sara’s arrangements too.


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Six Top Tips for sowing seeds with children.

 

Higgledy Garden seed packet

Little packets of hope and promise

So, it’s that time of year when you start seeing seed packets everywhere. Little packets of hope & promise, often with bright shiny photos on the front. Most of us have been tempted to pop a packet or two into the trolley or basket at this time of year. In fact if you are one of the #Britishflowers seedaholics you might be tempted by more than one or two packets. In fact you might find you take your new purchase home to find you already have the exact same variety already. Of course that would *never happen to me!

Flower seed box

Just one or two packets!

If you are an Our Flower Patch member you will already have your wonderful Higgledy Garden seeds, sat waiting patiently. If not then you can always join us, buy from Higgledy, or pick up some flower seeds that look promising.

How can you help seed sowing go well with children. Here are our six top tips.

  1. When filling modules or pots with compost make sure they are well filled. They should be filled to just below the rim. The levels should be checked again after tamping.
  2. Don’t overtamp the compost. The compost should be gently firmed into the pot or module into which you are going to sow seeds. This is often best done by tapping the pot onto a firm surface, rather than letting the children press the compost into the pot.
  3. Sow from a plate – children often find it easier to push seeds off one by one from a plate, or from the crease of a piece of folded paper. They may find it difficult to sow smaller seeds thinly from their hand. The plate method may help with this.

    Sowing seeds from a plate

    Sowing from a plate may be easier for small seeds and small fingers.

  4. Mix small seeds with fine sand for direct sowing. This helps you see where you have sown and also helps the seeds be distributed more evenly.
  5. Don’t overwater. Best practice is to either water the soil before sowing for direct sowing. Or in the case of sowing into modules or pots, place the newly sown pot into a tray of water to allow the water to soak up from the bottom. You could also use your wheelbarrow to do this. Both pre-watering and bottom soaking reduce the risk of washing away seeds with over enthusiastic watering. Pots and modules should only be watered when they are dry. Don’t keep them too damp whilst the seeds are germinating.
  6. Labelling. No matter how well you think you will remember which pot had cosmos and which had cornflower, you will most likely forget. Make sure everything you sow is labelled, whether it be a pot, a module or a direct sown row. Apart from anything when you are growing plants in a school environment other helpful people may move things around.

Hopefully these top tips will help you sow seeds successfully with children. We’d love to hear any of your top tips. Please share them in the comments, on our Facebook page, or our Twitter feed.

*has happened…frequently…probably every year I end up with doubles!

Zinnia with bee

Soon you too could have blooms like this.

 


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Welcome to National Gardening Week

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It’s the fourth annual National Gardening Week. Championed by the RHS, it is the country’s biggest celebration of gardening. Thousands of people, gardens, charities, retailers, culture and heritage organisations and groups get involved in events and activities up and down the country and you can too.

On their website there is a long list of suggestions for activities you can do to get outside improving your garden for yourself, for wildlife and for the good of the environment in general. Many of these are happening in schools where gardening is now part of the curriculum – like our own Our Flower Patch member schools.

We know how much benefit children can receive from a regular dose of fresh air, getting their hands dirty and nurturing crops….. and this week is the perfect time to reflect on how getting outside, working together and tuning into the increased light levels can affect learning in general – for pupils AND teachers.

An interesting article recently in The Guardian reflected on the ways in which teachers can channel the increased levels of energy and curiosity which naturally occur in Spring as light levels increase and there is a feeling of growth and renewal. Our Flower Patch members have been working outside throughout the winter on a number of projects. Evidence suggests that even 15 minutes spent outside increases feelings of well-being. Why not take advantage of the better weather to set this in motion by joining the hundreds of schools where pupils are working together on gardening projects? Or the ranks of families turning over a small patch to growing flowers.

The RHS has a schools programme with plenty of suggestions for how to get started in the school garden and it’s not too late to join us too, either to grow at school or at home. We provide week by week activities which are linked to the new National Curriculum and are fun to do and easy to follow, even for teachers, TAs or parents who have no knowledge of gardening. Growing cut flowers requires less in the way of quality soil and time than vegetable growing and there is never any shortage of customers to buy your flowers or do some holiday maintenance in return for a bunch of flowers to take home, in our experience.

So why not make National Gardening Week the week when you and your children start growing cut flowers? Start here.

cornflowers sweetpeas ammi grown in schools ourflowerpatch.co.uk

A posy that can be grown by Our Flower Patch pupils.


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Holiday activities 2015: part 1

Outdoor classroom at National Trust The Courts

Wildlife Garden at The Courts

Our Flower Patch members are on holiday but Cally’s been busy running some more sessions for the National Trust to promote outdoor learning for children and families. In the past these have focused on the #50things to do before you’re 11 and 3/4 campaign but this year they are connected with the heritage of the National Trust properties where they are based and sustainable gardening.

The Easter holiday workshops based  at The Courts gardens in Holt tie in with the cloth making heritage of this former mill owner’s property. Families can follow a trail around the gardens, featuring plants for dyeing and then take part in  a ‘hands on’ activity with Cally in the wildlife garden.

On Maundy Thursday dozens of children got stuck into creating some beautiful botanical art using not much more than a hammer and some leaves and flowers. Next week she’ll be getting in touch with her Celtic roots painting with woad.

Botanical nature art

Botanical Art

More Thursday workshops will follow in the Summer holidays. We’ll publish the details shortly. Why not join us to experience some Our Flower Patch activities first hand?

 

Ourflowerpatch.co.uk

Rustic hammers to create nature art