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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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.

 


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Garden inspiration – past and present

Sleightholmedale

Sleightholmedale

Half Term is a good time to get some inspiration for your flower patches either by visiting gardens or settling into a hammock with a good gardening book full of sound advice and LOTS of droolworthy colour pictures of delicious plant combinations. As my holiday had already been hi-jacked for a trip to London to visit the Science Museum and take in as many of our old haunts in North London as possible with the children, I had to be content with the latter. How fortunate then that Frances Lincoln had recently sent us a copy of First Ladies of Gardening to feed my passion for all things horticultural during a few days away.

Written in an engaging way by Heidi Howcroft and with the most beautiful full colour photographs of the views, vistas and plant combinations found in the inspiring gardens designed and maintained by fourteen  female British gardeners , it’s a real celebration of the English country house garden. A beautiful balance of words and pictures it covers some of the  noteworthy designers of the last century including Gertrude Jekyll, Rosemary Verey and Beth Chatto and the women who have continued with their legacy. The second half of the book focuses on  some modern ‘pioneers’ ( Rosanna James, Rachel James) who have made their gardens in some challenging conditions away from the traditional country house (Helen Dillon, Sue Whittington) . Yes there are some women missing who perhaps are worthy of consideration but the mix is nevertheless inspiring. Each chapter is more than just a glimpse over the garden wall  of gardens built at the seaside, in the heart of the city or on the edge of a hillside as well as  in the grounds of some of the most beautiful country houses of England.

First Ladies in Gardening

Glorious!

As well as a feast for the eyes each chapter contains a history of the garden, along with the “Guiding Principles” of the garden maker and their “Signature Plants” set out at the end in easy to find bullet point format.

I love the fact that most of these women are passionate amateurs, experimenting, making mistakes and learning on the job, rather like myself. None of their gardens are low maintenance, many have have tackled difficult sites and conditions and all have created gardens which reflect their personalities. That’s right up my street. For teachers, teaching assistants and parents who are inspiring a new generation of growers like the members of Our Flower Patch it’s the perfect way to get your own creative horticultural juices flowing.

To order First Ladies of Gardening at the discounted price of £16 including p&p* (RRP£20), telephone 01903 828503 or email mailorders@lbsltd.co.uk and quote the offer code APG290.
*UK ONLY – Please add £2.50 if ordering from overseas.

Thank you to Frances Lincoln for the review copy, the discount code for our readers, and for providing the images to use in this post.

First Ladies in Gardening

An inspiring read.


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World Book Day

World book day gardening books

Just a few of Sara’s favourites.

As World Book Day approaches  – it’s on Thursday March 5th – we’re certainly not short of reading material on Our Flower Patch , having been the lucky recipients of several garden-related books to review. Sara went to the launch of Charles Dowding’s latest book at the Garden Museum in London recently and Cally has been working her way through a series of exciting, new and beautifully illustrated books. Keep your eyes peeled here for reviews over the coming weeks before the business of sowing begins in earnest and you are spending every spare moment tending your seedlings rather than reading in front of the fire.

To celebrate the day itself Cally’s daughter is dressing up as Scout (To Kill a Mocking Bird). There are sure to be several well known literary characters masquerading as teachers at school. Cally even gardened as the witch from ‘Room on the Broom’ once. This year however we are marking the occasion with a give away. You could be the lucky recipient of a copy of Georgie Newbery’s book on flower farming. In case you missed it first time around here is Sara’s review of this popular and beautifully photographed guide to the Somerset flower farmer’s patch.

To be in with a chance of getting your hands on a copy, all you have to do is subscribe to our blog and leave a comment here telling us what is your favourite gardening book. By subscribing to the blog, you’ll be sure never to miss out on hints. tips, reviews and giveaways for the school gardener or home flower farmer. It’s a win win situation. We’ll pick a winner at random on March 20th and publish the name of the lucky recipient here. (You must live in the UK to be eligible for this competition)

Tell us. What’s your recommendation for World Book Day for gardeners?

 

Our Flower Patch reviews The Flower Farmer's year by Georgie Newbery.

Enter to win this!


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Telling tales

Snowdrops in a primary school garden

A welcome sight in a winter garden.

This week is National Storytelling Week. We love a good story down on our patch. Cally often takes a book and a flask of coffee to her patch for a sneaky read between bursts of strenuous activity getting her plot ready for Spring. It’s good for your young growers to enjoy their patches as well as work in them. Let them spend time enjoying them at lunchtime. You’ll be surprised how attached they become to their plots and how much more care they take of them.

Why not hold a class storytelling event among the promise of fragrant blooms. You may have a few bulbs springing up or there may be a patch of snowdrops. Look hard enough and you’ll see signs of life but Winter storytelling sessions need thick coats, warm rugs, even old sleeping bags, hot chocolate, a bonfire and the kind of story that whisks you off to a winter wonderland. It’s the way storytelling used to be in the days before kindles, books and central heating. Ask for parent volunteers to come in and share their favourite stories or see if you can book a professional storyteller or author.

You can hold a summer event later in the year, make a den or a tent among the flowers with homemade lemonade or ice lollies. Recycle the lolly sticks as plant labels in the Autumn. However you celebrate National Storytelling Week in your flower patches, you might find these resources useful. Our members will be using their patches to encourage outdoor literacy activities in school this week. We have lots of lesson plans for activities which will get your young growers reading and writing – all the time getting up close and personal with nature.

 

Credit for the reading tent photograph to Will Heap and Kyle Books. This is taken from the fabulous book 101 Things For Kids To Do Outside, written by Dawn Isaac. You can read our review of it here.

Children reading  in a garden tent

Summer Story telling outside


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Win a copy of ‘The Cut Flower Patch’ by Louise Curley

The Cut Flower Patch By Louise Curley front cover.

The Cut Flower Patch

I’m one of those people with a pile of books on my bedside table at various stages of being read. At the moment I have a couple of crime novels from the library, Jane Austen’s ‘Emma’, which I’m adapting for the stage for a local theatrical group, ‘The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry’ by Rachel Joyce, a business mentoring manual, Sarah Raven’s Christmas book and one which has been a constant source of inspiration and advice on the plot since I picked it up several  months ago. That book is Louise Curley’s highly readable and beautifully photographed insight into the home (or school) cut flower patch and is destined to grace my bedside table for many months yet. Louise is a regular columnist for the Guardian newspaper, Grow Your Own, The Simple Things and Gardens Illustrated magazines. I first came across her in her informative wellywoman blog and was delighted when I heard she was writing a book, telling the story of her cutting patch and offering inspiration to others.

Statice flowers perfect for drying.

Statice growing in a cut flower patch, perfect for drying.

Aspirational as well as inspirational Louise’s book is an enchanting yet  practical guide for anyone who wants to start a manageable cutting patch on their allotment or in the garden. She begins with a rationale for growing flowers both for pleasure and for wildlife and explains just how much can be grown in a relatively small space. There follow chapters on planning your patch (with top tips on what makes a good cut flower and suggested planting plans for beds), getting started, caring for your patch, cutting and arranging your flowers along with detailed notes on more than thirty annuals, biennials, bulbs, corms, tubers. There’s even a dedicated section on growing your own wedding flowers.

A bucket of freshly picked flowers.

Freshly picked blooms.

Louise also shows you how to supplement your patch with a spot of responsible foraging so that you’ll never be without something beautiful in your vase throughout the seasons. For those who like their advice in bite size visual chunks there’s a handy sowing and planting calendar and plot maintenance calendar included at the end along with a comprehensive list of Lou’s favoured resources. The book is liberally sprinkled with fantastic photographs by Jason Ingram, which really highlight the beauty you too could create at home or in your school garden.

Autumn collection, dried flower material and foraged berries.

Autumn Bounty. Dried stems and foraged goodies.

I can’t think of a better more readable book for novice flower growers who have been inspired to devote a bed or two to make a cutting patch or those who want to provide themselves with a vase or two of flowers every week for the home or to give to friends. Even more established growers will, I’m sure find plenty of handy hints and advice, and keep coming back for reference. Home grown flowers are in vogue. Rachel de Thame has been showing us how on Gardener’s World recently, an increasing number of flower farmers are growing and selling their blooms on a commercial scale and there is some indication that there will be a revival in local, seasonal flowers in the way there has in respect of local, seasonal food in the past few years. Sara and I have been spreading the flowery love around primary schools who are now preparing to supply parents and grandparents with blooms next year, as a clever and enjoyable way to raise funds for their school garden group.  Why not join the flower revolution?

British Flowers in a funky cardboard vase.

Fabulous vase! Gorgeous flowers.

Frances Lincoln have very kindly given us a copy of the book to give away to one lucky follower of our blog who is resident in the UK or Ireland. It’s a perfect early Christmas present for you or a friend (if you can bear to part with it).

All you need to do is subscribe to this blog, via WordPress or follow by email and leave a comment telling us the name of your favourite flower.

We’ll put all the names into a gardening hat in two weeks and get one of our young growing apprentices to draw out the name of the lucky recipient. We’ll publish the name of the winner here on November 18th.

If you can’t wait till then to get your hands on The Cut Flower Patch, you can buy it online and through independent bookshops, or via the RHS shop.