Our Flower Patch

Inspiring a new generation of growers


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.

 


4 Comments

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.

 


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 Classroom in the Garden – British Science Week

British Science Week 2015 logo

British Science Week 13th-22nd March 2015

British Science week runs from the 13th – 22nd March. It is organised by the British Science Association and activities and events across the UK for all ages help to encourage people to engage with Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths.

The website is really helpful and you can have a look to find events near you or to download activity packs. There are also two Citizen Science projects you could take part in. 

Here at Our Flower Patch we do our best to help you teach various elements of the curriculum through the garden. We provide our members with weekly lesson plans for activities to be carried out in the outdoor classroom. Last week there was a business and marketing slant to the activity, as well as elements of practical maths. We have looked at the Science of what plants need to thrive, and used Design and Technology to create recycled items to use in the school garden. There will be plenty of Scientific observation coming up as the seeds get sown, and the seedlings begin to grow. Profit and loss, income and expenditure will all feature once the flowers are being cut to be sold in our members mini business enterprises, excellent examples of hands on practical Maths.

Who knew you could teach so much through a school garden…well…us of course!

There is still time to become a member for the rest of the academic year. Just £85.00 buys your school, or home schoolers access to specially chosen packs of flower seeds and your weekly lesson plans. We will guide you through the whole process of growing flowers, and using the garden as a classroom.

Daffodils in the school garden

Business acumen through a humble British Daffodil.

 

 

 


Leave a comment

Make it Happen! (Part 3)

 

International Women's Day 2015 Logo

International Women’s Day 2015

Here is our third and last part of our Make it Happen series for International Women’s Day. Last but certainly not least we feature Harriet Rycroft. Harriet used to be the head gardener at Whichford Pottery, she now describes herself as a free range gardener. Harriet is well know, or is that ‘notorious’ for her planting in pots, and you can now access her expertise through her course on Container Gardening through MyGardenSchool.com the next one starts in April.

Container gardening

Perfect Planting in Pots

My first gardening memory is sowing seeds of candytuft, cornflowers and love-in-the-mist in two little rectangles of soil in front of my brand new wendy house. I was amazed when they came up and flowered, and I can remember looking really closely at the flowers and being pleased that they were MINE! I was about five. My first jobs in the garden were probably picking fruit – my dad made a fruit cage, where we grew raspberries, blackcurrants, gooseberries and strawberries. Our dog liked to pick raspberries too, he did it very daintily with his lips, but we didn’t manage to train him not to eat them all!

I am inspired by lots and lots of other gardeners and the list grows all the time. There are gardeners who write inspiringly about their own and other people’s efforts, there are people who are brilliant at growing vegetables, amazing cut flower growers, people who have huge skills in training roses and trees into beautiful shapes, people who collect rare plants from far off places and people who work out how to make those rare plants happy in this country.

There’s one gardener who I really admire but I can’t mention her name because she works in a very grand place and is very discreet – but she manages a big team and a big budget with incredible attention to detail, and produces the most amazing flowers, fruit and vegetables; she has more skill and knowledge than anyone I can think of, is modest but determined and quietly assertive, and is very generous in sharing her knowledge.

I suppose the group of people which inspires me the most is the British women of the early 20th century, especially during the first and second world wars. They got on with learning about gardening and agriculture, which at the time were almost entirely done by men, and showed everyone that women can do those things too. Beatrix Havergal taught a lot of women at Waterperry and although it is said that Roald Dahl based Miss Trunchbull from Matilda on her (because she was very tall and I think she was quite fierce) it sounds like she was a very determined and fair teacher who made everyone work hard and to high standards, producing some of this country’s best gardeners.

I think it is very important to encourage young people to garden because our green spaces, both wild and cultivated, are shrinking all the time, and it is only when you get the chance to really immerse yourself in such a space and begin to find out how complex and fascinating it is that you realise how essential plant communities are to the world and to all the creatures that live there – including humans…

I think it is vital that girls (and boys) are shown at primary school age that getting outside and interacting with the natural world is a normal thing to do. I think many adults have become afraid of letting children explore for themselves, afraid of letting them get dirty and take a few risks, and that fear gets passed on to the kids. I have met far too many children who are afraid to get a bit of mud on their hands! I don’t think it’s helpful to make a big deal of it but we need to show them in an every-day kind of way how much we enjoy it and give them the freedom to experiment, the patience to observe the natural world, and the perseverance to try again if something doesn’t quite work.

As regards girls and gardening – whether amateur or professional – well, if we give them confidence in themselves and help them to challenge stereotypes and assumptions about gender roles plus the opportunities to try out as many things as possible, then those who enjoy it will do it.

I would like to say to girls embarking on horticultural careers: Do it on your own terms, don’t let people tell you that you can’t do certain things as there will always be a way of doing it that they haven’t thought of, horticulture is hugely diverse and there is room for everybody’s talents. Don’t be too proud to ask for help and advice, and remember to help other members of your team. Be interested and willing to try different things – for example don’t assume that machinery is ‘toys for boys’, there is no reason you can’t learn to operate and maintain it too. People (even other women) may not think of giving you the opportunity – don’t wait to be asked, if you see any interesting opportunity enquire about it. And don’t assume that the men in your team are all unskilled muscle – there are plenty of skilled and artistic men out there who just get asked to dig veg beds and mow lawns, equality works both ways!

Gardening well requires the ability to look at a task from many different angles – you need an awareness of science, history, even psychology, all with an artistic and observant eye. If you like being outside and you don’t mind getting wet/dirty/cold sometimes then go for it! Parents and teachers often EXPECT girls not to enjoy the more practical aspects of life but it’s easy to prove them wrong.

I remember helping a class of children at the local primary school to dig holes and plant daffodil bulbs all the way along a path, a really simple but quite laborious task – seeing their pride in the result the following spring was a real treat! So much of gardening seems like magic when you get your first little successes, and the best thing is that for many of us the magic never fades!

My desert island garden tool would be a little pointy spade only 2ft long, made by Sneeboer, a Dutch company which makes tools by hand. It’s great for splitting plants and replanting and it’s really sharp so you could find other uses for it too…

Plants are more difficult – if it really was a desert island I might want something edible like potatoes or runner beans (neither of which I could get sick of), but if I had to choose just one ornamental plant it would probably be a tulip bulb, or preferably a small assortment of tulip bulbs because then I could have fun cross-pollinating them and trying to produce new colours, which would give me something to look forward to.

Books – also tricky, but I’d choose something by Christopher Lloyd or Beth Chatto because they both bring plants alive in their writing and can be very funny at the same time.

My favourite thing about gardening? Being OUTSIDE! I’d hate to be stuck in an office all week.

Thank you so much to Harriet for answering our questions. You can find Harriet on Twitter and read more about her thoughts on gardening and other matters over on her blog A Parrot’s Nest

Harriet Rycroft

Harriet Rycroft

A final big thank you to our three fantastic contributors. It is exciting to see the passion and enthusiasm for gardening that you ladies display, and also that you are united in your commitment for engaging young people with the natural world. Something as you know we are committed to also with our Educational programme.

Just in case you missed any you can have a look back at the blogs by Rosy Hardy, and Christine Walkden.


1 Comment

Make it Happen! (part 2)

International Women's Day 2015 Logo

International Women’s Day 2015

Welcome to the second part of our Make it Happen series of interviews with leading female horticulturalists in honour of International Women’s Day.

Today we are talking to Christine Walkden, who was kind enough to give us a telephone interview. I had to write very fast to keep up with Christine’s enthusiasm for gardening, but it was a pleasure to speak to such an honest and enthusiastic person.

You may well know Christine from some of her many and varied appearances on television. My favourite has been her appearances in The Great British Garden Revival, and also the Glorious Gardens From Above series. It was so interesting to see gardens from a different perspective, which even included Christine abseiling to do some cliffside gardening at St Michael’s Mount.

What is your first gardening memory?

At school every year from 5-11yrs old we were given a crocus corm, a yoghurt pot and some soil from the playing field to plant the crocus in. We were given them to plant and then they were taken away until they flowered. I loved the planting but it always bothered me that I didn’t get to look after them whilst they were growing, someone else was always given that job. They were brought back out when they were flowering. I wanted to be involved in the whole process. Even back then I loved the growing. It’s all about putting something in and getting something up.

Who is your gardening inspiration? 

Mother Nature. I’ve never been one for posters of people on my walls as a youngster I had pictures of flowers on my walls.

Why do you think it is important to encourage young people to garden?

It teaches them about life, the seasons, light, smells patience, understanding, companionship. It’s much more than just sticking in plants. It’s life and death, it’s a softer way to teach some of the concepts of life that can be tricky to get across.

The theme for International Women’s day is “Make It Happen” what are your top tips for helping young girls interested in a career in gardening, and how they can make it happen? 

Get as much practical experience as you can, even if that means volunteering for free. You can’t buy experience you can only gain it. Practical experience is so important, you can read things in books or on the Internet but it can’t replace practical experience.

What ideas do you have to help encourage young girls into gardening? 

Just do it. If you don’t succeed straight away, sow some more. We all have to learn skills like reading or riding a bike, or learning to drive, some take time, some are tricky. People expect miracles when gardening, why? Some of the skills of gardening can take time to master. Be persistent, don’t give up.The important thing is that people connect with nature, that a plant moves them. That’s what matters. Even if it is the joy of a dandelion, or making daisy chains, the connection with plants is the important bit.

Do you have any advice for girls or women looking at horticulture as a future career? 

The same – keep trying and persevere.The money may not always be there with gardening as a career but the reward is. You may not get a “flash lifestyle”. But I have had an amazing life, travelled the world and seen the most fabulous things and had fantastic experiences all because of my love of plants.

Sometimes young people find it difficult to see where a career will take them; some times they are focused more on financial reward than on lifestyle benefits. Gardening was never considered a decent job, but look at me now.

Teaching children the skills of horticulture can start them on a journey that can be continued later in life. It may be that they continue gardening as a career straight away, or it might be that they come back to it as a career choice later in life.

Do you have any anecdotes you would like to share about working & gardening with young people or in schools?

I just love the little kids with their twinkling eyes getting their hands dirty and enjoying it. I love it that they say they now do gardening at home because of me. One child told me they now have a greenhouse at home because of me – that made my day.

A child, who was considered quite a difficult child within the school, brought a plant in to show me, that he had looked after and nurtured. I asked him how he had got it started and he said it started in the garden and I liked it and it looked pretty and I thought you would enjoy it. He was caring for that plant and bringing it on. It was a hairy bittercress plant. That doesn’t matter – it’s the enthusiasm that he showed and the care and perseverance to make that plant thrive. I loved that.

When you are planting seeds with children you are planting a lifelong gift.

If you can tick their boxes and excite them you have them for life.

What is your desert island garden tool & plant?

Oh blimey! A hoe, ho ho ho! You’ve got to keep the blimmin’ weeds down to succeed. And if they get out of control you could always chop things down with a hoe, or use it to dig a bit!

Plant – Soldanella pusilla – it’s an alpine and I love its scale, beauty and tenacity. It can even flower in the snow.

At this point we had a chat about Latin names, and Christine was adamant that whilst Latin names are very important not knowing them shouldn’t hold people back from getting involved with gardening. It’s about engaging with the plant and enjoying it. Don’t worry about the name. That knowledge can come later.

What is your favourite thing about gardening?

The whole experience. The optimism. If it doesn’t work try again, it’s likely to succeed a second time. There’s always tomorrow.

Growing people and growing a garden is the same thing – you nurture a garden just like you nurture a child to get the best results. Make sure it has enough food and water, and that plants aren’t left to freeze in winter or bake in summer and you should be ok.

The gift of gardening can’t be quantified. The magical moments are the satisfaction.

Thank you so much to Christine for taking the time to answer our questions. You can find Christine on Twitter and her website diary will show you where she is appearing at shows and horticultural society talks so you might be lucky enough to hear her in person.

Christine Walkden

Christine Walkden