Our Flower Patch

Inspiring a new generation of growers


Leave a comment

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.

20150623=the-no-nonsense-guide-to-green-parenting=ep-1-1=cover=300dpi=

 

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


Leave a comment

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.

 

 


Leave a comment

A garden for all ages?

Adobe Photoshop PDF

Julie Foster’s ‘Garden for Every Retiree’

As champions of the school garden we are always delighted whenever we hear that our members are being helped out by grandparents and senior members of the community. They may have oodles of gardening experience to share with young growers or none at all, in which case young and old can learn together.

Recently, we have been contacted by the people behind some of the show gardens at the forthcoming RHS Hampton Court Flower Show and in particular, Julie Foster’s ‘Garden for Every Retiree’ which aims to inspire all those who have retired from work to use their gardens to foster a healthy lifestyle and provide a haven for wildlife. We also love the Henri le Worm Community Garden which aims to show children how much can be derived from being outside in the garden and connecting with nature. It shows how cooking and healthy eating are engaging and can be fun. What’s more it has an outdoor kitchen and an edible green roof!

Henri le Worm Community Garden

Henri le Worm Community Garden

Gardening is therapeutic and for young and old alike.The benefits of young and old working together are well known by those of us who work with multiple generations. However, just recently there has been press coverage about  initiatives such as a pre school opening up inside a care home for the elderly. It’s not rocket science. Generations ago, when families tended to stay in one town or village, children saw a lot of their grandparents and senior members of the family. Nowadays, where people are more mobile and settle away from their extended family, children spend more time with professional carers and they miss out on a huge wealth of important shared experiences with older members of the community.

We love the idea of older members of the community and children working together in the school garden and are delighted that in some of our member schools this is going on right now in the flower patch.

If you’d like to set up a shared flower patch next school year, get in touch and we’d be delighted to support you in getting it off the ground.

 


Leave a comment

Flowers in the curriculum

Julie Warburton's book

Julie Warburton’s book

We’re not the only ones who understand the value of using flowers to help children access all aspects of the National Curriculum. We have a kindred spirit in Julie Warburton,  who brings her floristry skills and background in teaching to engage children with the “blooming curriculum”. Her informative book, Teaching with Flowers for a Blooming Curriculum, written for teachers and teaching assistants of 9 – 12 year olds offers a hands on approach to learning using flowers and flower arranging as the launchpad to many aspects of the curriculum.

We were lucky enough to be given a copy to review a few weeks ago and have thoroughly enjoyed sharing in Julie’s vision for using flowers to teach anything from science to art and PSHE and everything in between. Her ideas are well linked to the demands of the National Curriculum and there is plenty of advice on the floristry aspects for teachers who are not experienced flower arrangers. Obviously our members are producing bucketsful of flowers on a weekly basis but for anyone who isn’t, Julie’s book provides detailed lists of the flowers that could be bought in to use in all the activities.

The bulk of the book is taken up with detailed plans for twelve flower arrangement ideas which provide an opportunity to practise practical floristry skills along with complementary ‘let’s learn about….’ sessions, each one containing teaching and learning ideas. Further sections provide advice for taking the ideas further and useful hints and tips for tools of the trade.

It’s an interesting read for growers of flowers and those who just want to work with the finished article, without the hassle of nurturing your plants or simply those who do not have the time or space at school to grow them. We think you might find something to interest even the least green fingered members of your class. Why not give some of Julie’s ideas a go and buy the flowers from your local Our Flower Patch school?

Julie’s book is published by Crown House Publishing Ltd and is available here.

 


Leave a comment

Welcome to National Gardening Week

NGW-white-background-jpeg

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.


Leave a comment

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

 


Leave a comment

‘The Apprentice’ with flowers

Using flowers to raise money in school. Ourflowerpatch.co.uk

Flowery fundraising at its best.

Midsummer mayhem hit our very first member school on Saturday with a bumper fundraising event which saw profits from sales of home-grown flowers this year soar past £200. The school’s annual Strawberry Fair was held in glorious sunshine and a long line of customers queued up at the flower stall organised by Skylark class. Thirty jam jar arrangements containing their locally grown  blooms all sold and they managed to secure some regular customers too.

Some members of the class fully embraced the concept of selling and organised flowery face painting, snail racing and a wheelbarrow of  fortune to add to the fun and fundraising opportunities. They also have Karen at Peter Nyssen Ltd, (one of our suppliers) to thank for donating dahlias, lilies and gladioli to the cause.

Any school looking to turn a profit from  their school garden could follow in the footsteps of  Fitzmaurice School. For an initial outlay of £85  the school has raised the means to maintain and expand the school garden next year and teach a whole range of cross curricular skills into the bargain.

We’re signing up new members for September now. Email us for details or to chat things over.