Our Flower Patch

Inspiring a new generation of growers

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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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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.


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Getting ready for British Flowers Week

British Flowers Week Flag 2015

British Flowers Week is a celebration of British grown flowers and the florists who use them organised online by New Covent Garden Market. British Flowers Week this year is 15th June to 19th June. Lots of British flower growers are looking at ways to celebrate and spread the word about British flowers. On Friday and Saturday last week I had a stall with Saffy from Bath Flowers at the wonderful Toby Buckland Garden Festival at Bowood House.

British Flowers stall Myflowerpatch.co.uk ourflowerpatch.co.uk

We had a wonderful time selling British Flowers. Most of the flowers and foliage on the stall were grown on My Flower Patchbut we also had flowers from Clowance Flowers in Cornwall, a wholesaler who specialise in British flowers, and some amazing polytunnel grown Ammi and Cornflowers that Kate Gibbins of Windmill Farm Flowers grew in Somerset.

We sold jam jar posies, gathered bunches wrapped in brown paper, and bunches of ten Sweet William, perfect just as they are. We also made bespoke, celebration bouquets to order. Customers loved how scented the flowers are. Many people commented on how the scent of the Sweet Williams took them back to childhood and evoked happy memories. Some people noticed flowers that they had had on their wedding day, or those that grew in their Grandmas garden. One lady can be quoted as saying that our stall made her heart sing!

We also made some simple flower crowns, from twisted birch with flowers and foliage wired on. These were a big hit and looked great on lots of different people.

Man in a flower crown

Suits you!

Little girl in a flower crown ourflowerpatch.co.uk

A magical unicorn wearing a flower crown!

It was great to talk to so many different people about the flowers I grow. There was a huge amount of enthusiasm for British grown flowers, for their scent, their natural look and the environmental benefits of both growing them and also not importing flowers from halfway round the world. The bees loved our stand and we often found that as we were handing over a bunch of flowers to a customer we noticed that a bee was hitching a ride! A “free bee” with every bunch became a standing joke. So why not have a go at a British Flower stall yourself. Maybe as part of your school summer fair. To help you raise money for your young gardeners, to have a giggle and to help promote British Flowers. If you are doing a stall during British Flowers week do let us know and we can help spread the word.

As for the Garden Festival itself, we were too busy on the stand to partake of too many of the benefits of the event, but the people we talked to were all really enjoying themselves. They loved the setting at the beautiful Bowood House. They loved the range of stalls that were there, from wonderful plants and tools to delightful gifts and clothing. The food was amazing (I did manage to grab one of Truly Crumptious’s cinnamon sugar delights), Saffy loved the goat curry she had. The Festival atmosphere was second to none, wandering musicians, a Ukulele band, Stilt walkers and a children’s area with lots of fun activities and crafts to try. There was tree climbing for anyone over six brave enough to try, Croquet on the lawn and tours of the private walled gardens of Lady Lansdowne. There were two places for listening to talks. The Speakers Marquee and the Inspiration Marquee. There were talks given by such stellar horticulturalists as Toby Buckland, Anne Swithinbank, James Wong, and the only one I managed to squeeze in to listen to was the irrepressible Jonathan Moseley. Then in the Inspiration Marquee there was a packed programme with talks about meadow gardening, saving allotments, and talks from Chelsea Gold Medal winners such as Chris Smith and Rosy Hardy. So all in all, I would highly recommend attending the event next year. We are looking forward to it already if nothing else just to see our new found Horti friends again!

Toby Buckland, Sara Willman, Saffy Dodds Smith and Jonathan Moseley

Toby Buckland, Sara, Saffy and Jonathan Moseley (with a photobomb from Rob Hardy)


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I don’t want to go to Chelsea? Ten ways the Chelsea Flower Show could inspire young growers.

Chatsworth garden RHS Chelsea 2015

Large boulders & naturalistic planting- simply wonderful, Best in Show for Dan Pearson. Photo by Marie McLeish

Not strictly true, for me. For the last few years life’s responsibilities have conspired against me, mostly parent or teacher related. Last time I went to the Chelsea Flower Show – more moons ago than I care to remember – I was not teaching. Neither was I a parent. It started me thinking about the whole glorious horticultural circus and what, if anything, it has to offer young growers like our members and my own children. Chelsea has never marketed itself as a show for children, or, in fact one which is family-friendly in any way. I’m pretty sure there was a time when anyone under sixteen wasn’t allowed in. Now it’s just the under fives which are excluded. That’s not unreasonable. The site is relatively small, very crowded and few under fives would be engaged in any way.What’s more, it’s quite healthy for plant-loving parents of small children to have a day out without having to concentrate on the wellbeing, happiness and entertainment of little folk. There are other shows more suitable. What’s more we have never advocated ‘playing at gardening’ or child specific gardening.  Our young growers understand the realities of growing – the highs, the lows, the hard work, the teamwork, what’s involved in running a garden related business, the pleasure that you can give by growing flowers and the environmental impact, both positive and negative gardening has. And all of this is to be found at Chelsea. There has been so much talk in recent months about the dearth of youngsters seeing horticulture as an aspirational or even a viable career and also the importance to children’s general health of getting their hands in the soil, learning how to nurture plants. When Wimbledon is on TV at the end of June the parks are full of children playing tennis; when Chelsea is on TV in mid May, shouldn’t there be children out in their gardens, sowing seeds and creating veg plots and flower patches? What, if anything, does Chelsea have to offer in the way of inspiration to get the ball rolling? Does it have a spark to ignite a passion for horticulture which will last a lifetime? This year nine-year-old George Hassall, young RHS gardener of the year was given a high profile, presenting the Queen with a posy of flowers he’d helped to arrange. We think there are plenty of ways a flower show which concentrates on cutting edge garden design, breakthrough trends and new plants could engage all gardeners of tomorrow. Here are ten ways. You may be able to think of more.

Creating inspiring spaces

Just one look at Dan Pearson’s 2015 Best in Show Chatsworth Garden will tell you all you need to know about how gardens can evoke, time, place and atmosphere. Sit in the middle of his trademark naturalistic planting, stone boulders and running beck and you could be anywhere other than a corner of a Chelsea park. People need inspiring outdoor spaces in which to relax and garden designers have the ability to make people happy and transform spaces. That’s something for young growers to aspire to. Study the story of how Dan Pearson has transformed his Chelsea triangle into a corner of Chatsworth House and they will begin to see how projects are managed, how teams come together to make things happen, just how many skills can be developed through the making of a garden and the impact your work can have. Even looking at a flower decorated chair or a planted up teacup on a stand in the pavilion can give them ideas about small design projects they can try out for themselves.

Chatsworth Garden RHS Chelsea

I’d love to spend a while sitting on those stones in Dan Pearson’s Chatsworth garden. Photo by Marie McLeish

Creating links with the curriculum

Two of the most interesting gardens featured on Monday night’s BBC coverage from Chelsea were connected with historical events – The Battle of Waterloo and the 800 year anniversary of the signing of the Magna Carta. Both  events had been widely researched as part of the design process. For children who find the business of learning and retaining facts challenging, the opportunity to design a garden based on an historical event is an ideal way to delve into the people, places and events of the past in a tangible way. If you’ve planted a mini-meadow, you’ll remember that the Magna Carta was signed at Runnymede. What’s more you’ll have learned plenty about the importance of meadows stuffed with native wildflowers in these times of climate change and lack of bee friendly verges. The use of colours to represent the opposing sides in a  battle and the inclusion of heraldic shields to represent the barons  give strong images to children who learn in a visual way. Children like a project to get stuck into and learning for a reason. Designing a garden could be that project and all the hooks for all those facts, figures, motivations and characters they need to remember. Job done.

Cedric Morris Irises from the National Collection of Claire Austin. Photo by Michelle Chapman

Cedric Morris Irises from the National Collection. Photo by Michelle Chapman

Celebrating an eye for design 

The skills needed by designers are outlined in the national curriculum  and what better way to explore them in practice than to view at first hand how the Chelsea gardens have been created. Here is an excellent opportunity to investigate practical maths, risk management, the ethical use of materials which are fit for purpose, how to fulfil a brief by asking questions, researching and showing initiative, time management, people management and the use of tools and equipment.

Meeting and learning from plant experts

So many experts gathered in one place at one time is a rich resource to plumb to find out how to grow certain plants, which combinations work well together and finding the right plant for the right conditions. What an opportunity for young growers.

Promoting campaigns – the use of peat free compost, the benefits of front gardens, the importance of growing british flowers

The RHS and others with an interest in promoting horticulture quite rightly take the opportunity of so much media and public attention focused on gardening during the week of the Chelsea Flower Show to highlight areas of concern and interest. This year attention has been on the negative effects of paving over front gardens to create more parking, in particular increased flooding and lack of biodiversity leading to a decline in pollinators. Other burning issues, in particular on social media have been the use of peat free compost and how best to convince commercial and home growers to avoid using peat. Then of course there is the resurgence of the British cut flower industry and renewed interest in growing traditional native blooms. Inevitably heated discussions have taken place. A balance needs to be struck and there is a commercial as well as an ethical side to the debate. Young growers are interested in environmental issues but also need to be educated in the realities of how people make a living in the world of horticulture and how differing needs must be addressed. It’s a rich resource for a teacher to explore.

Promoting the rewards of hard work

Ask anyone who has spent the last twelve months preparing for Chelsea and they will all tell you that it is very hard work. Twenty hour days in the final weeks leading up to the show and numerous sleepless nights is the order of the day. Many contributors swear that they will never take part again. And yet they do. Hard work pays dividends and young people should hear about the realities of what it takes to bring a project to fruition. They will also learn the harsh lessons of working hard and not quite obtaining the reward of a gold medal at the end of it. Life is tough sometimes.

Gorgeous Foxgloves in Jo Thompson's garden

Gorgeous Foxgloves in Jo Thompson’s garden. Photo by Petra Hoyer Millar

Promoting teamwork

Every exhibit, every garden at Chelsea is the result of a team of people working together to make a project happen. Youngsters need to understand and model the way people work together in teams. It’s a life skill which can be fostered on the sports field or in the classroom. And here is another opportunity to explore the art of teamwork. Ask any designer to talk about their garden and what comes up time and again is their determination to celebrate the team who helped make it happen. My daughter in particular was overjoyed to hear about Jo Thompson’s all female planting team on the beautiful M & G Garden she designed this year. Girl power at its best!

Jo Thompson Garden RHS Chelsea 2015

A natural swimming pool in the Jo Thompson garden. Photo credit to RHS

Thinking about sustainability

I’m sure that building so many gardens from scratch and having to nurture excessive numbers of plants into peak condition, especially  out of season, many of which will be rejected has a huge environmental impact. Chelsea’s carbon footprint must be off the scale. However many of the gardens will be rebuilt,at least in part elsewhere after the show and plants will be sold off to the public at the end of the week. For example the Summer Solstice garden designed for Chelsea in 2008 by  Tomasso del Buono and Paul Gazerwitzin  has been rebuilt at Daylesford Organics in Stow on the Wold and now serves as a comfortable and inspirational workshop space for courses on growing food and raising livestock. This year’s Chatsworth garden is going back to the stately home in Derbyshire to be reconstructed in situ and Prince Harry’s charity Sentebale’s garden designed by Matt Keightley will be dismantled and some of it will be taken to the charity’s main centre in Lesotho. What happens to the gardens after the show is part of the application process required by the RHS. Thinking about the sustainability of the gardens, how to source plants and materials responsibly and how to use them to impact positively on the lives of others in the future is something young growers can see in practice at Chelsea.

Understanding how to harness the cult of celebrity and the power of social media

Like all industries the world of horticulture benefits from celebrity endorsement and personal recommendations to keep its practitioners in work. To be able to catch the eye of a celebrity and to engage with the public via social media to promote a business can lead to increased sales and a solid professional reputation. Young growers can use the Chelsea experience to reflect on this and develop an understanding of how successful marketing works and how professional reputations are built and potentially damaged.

Joanna Lumley at RHS Chelsea

Joanna Lumley launches the M&S Blooms of the British Isles exhibit. Photo credit to RHS & Hannah McKay

Exploring how business works

Horticulture is a business as well as a vocation and a way of life. For young growers to aspire to a career in horticulture (or even to be ready for the world of work) they need to see how a business works, how it will provide opportunities for job satisfaction as well as a way to make a living. Observe the way gardeners, designers and nursery owners use Chelsea to build relationships, network with each other,celebrate success and innovation, make sales, communicate their passion for what they do and showcase the best they have to offer to the public and they will begin to understand that it’s a business which might be for them. Delve a little deeper into how Chelsea gardens are sponsored and funded , how a bid is put together, how the project is managed over time, how many people are involved and the variety of skills they bring with them and it begins to sound really interesting. Add in the time pressure, coping with the vagaries of the British weather, the potential rewards for being at the top of the game and the positive, transformational effect you can have on people and the environment and a career in horticulture sounds an exciting proposition.

Open up the world of Chelsea to young growers and you won’t regret it. Gardening with young people is so much more than sowing a few sunflower seeds – although that’s a good place to start.

Baroness Floella Benjamin, OBE pictured on the RHS Garden

Baroness Floella Benjamin, OBE pictured on the RHS Garden. Photo Credit
Bethany Clarke / RHS

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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?



Rustic hammers to create nature art


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Walk to School Month…..Flower Patch Style

Toddler walking a country lane

Striding out on his own.

Young girl walking to school celebrating walk to school month Our Flwoer Patch www.ourflowerpatch.co.uk

What a lovely walk to school.













This month is Walk to School Month, a worldwide initiative taking place in forty countries to highlight the benefits of walking to school. Evidence suggests that in Britain less than half of all primary school aged children travel to school on foot. In an age of childhood obesity, pollution, conjestion, road rage and worries about a generation becoming disconnected from nature, perhaps it is time to start highlighting the advantages of walking to school. We are supporters of the benefits of fresh air and so you’d expect us to champion the cause.


Rose hips in an Autumn hedge.

Rose hips shine out from Autumn hedgerows

October is a great month to start a new regime. In general the weather isn’t all that dismal and getting up close and personal with nature can be a veritable attack on the senses. Even in urban areas you can experience the changing of the seasons at close quarters. There are leaves to crunch through, an array of burnished colours to admire, wildlife to spot and treasures to collect in the form of conkers, sloes and rose hips. For Our Flower Patch members walking around the local area can bring hidden benefits as you discover where to forage for a little filler foliage or collect pinecones and eye up evergreens for Christmas projects later in the season. (Did we really just mention Christmas! Oops sorry!)

Spindle berries in an autumn hedge

Dazzling Spindle berries

When you are the parent of young children a walk to and from school twice a day, come rain or shine, can sometimes seem like a bit of a chore, especially when there are a million demands on your time. Even if you are a working parent with a desperate need to get to work before your boss, find time to do it. Set off earlier and park further away from school. Fifteen minutes spent out of doors every day can bring  huge rewards in keeping mind and body healthy. Some schools have set up initiatives like the Walking Bus, where groups of children walk to school together supervised by a rota of parent volunteers.

Now that my children are older and walk themselves to school, I really miss the routine of  ‘chat and stroll’ which bookends the school day, when we were undisturbed by telephones, pcs and all other demands on our time. Our family chat now takes place with coffee and cake in the garden at the end of school, which is pleasant but considerably less good for the waistline.

Related to the subject of safer walking to school we would like to let you know about a fantastic charity called The Finlay Foundation. Here are some words from Nikki Connor, its founder.

The Finlay Foundation is a charity that was set up after the tragic death, whilst walking to school, of my little boy Finlay Joseph aged 6 years  in 2011. The charity has really grown in the 2 years that we have been running and we have provided many children in hospitals, hospices & charity run groups not only in Wiltshire, but in Hampshire, Somerset, Dorset, Devon & Bristol with toys, play equipment, art & craft materials as well as sensory equipment for brain injured children and a specialist boat for the charity ‘Sailability’ based in Bristol. We have also donated thousands of pounds to both The Wiltshire Air Ambulance & The Great Western Air Ambulance in Finlay’s memory.

Another aspect of our charity is promoting children’s safety, especially when out on the road. A child’s safety is paramount and with this is mind we have been giving high visibility vests to local primary & nursery schools as well as child minders and scout groups. It is so important we make our children visible to other road users and we hope this simple preventative measure of wearing a high visibility jacket when walking or cycling along the roads will help to reduce the chances of injury”.

Niki Connor

www.finlayfoundation.co.uk Please ‘Like’ us on Facebook

Giving out high visibility vests to improve child safety.

Louis & Isobel give out High visibility vests from The Finally Foundation at The Emergency Services show.

Nikki has said that primary & nursery schools in Wiltshire are welcome to contact her to apply for High Visibility vests for their children. They would love to be able to offer them further afield, however they are looking for a more competitively priced printing deal – so if you know anyone who might be able to help out with this then also get in touch with Nikki.

High visibility vests help improve child safety.

Busy Bees Nursery received vests for the staff and children from The Finlay Foundation

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Foraging and welly walks

Blackberries, Autumn harvest.

Hedgerow bounty!

September is a great month for foraging for there’s no better opportunity for exploring the school grounds, your garden and the immediate locality to hone the observation and plant identification skills of young growers and find out how much raw material you can access for free. It’s a good opportunity to teach  The Countryside Code, responsible foraging and experiment with some simple nature and foliage displays. Our Flower Patch members will find that it will help build the skills they need for later in the year when they may well be selling their floral displays. But it’s fun for everyone.. Blackberries and elderberries (cooked)  are good to eat (or drink) too.

Many children will benefit from a picture ‘quiz’ of named plants to find but older or more experienced foragers could collect specimens for identification in pairs or at home using a simple handbook or internet search. We like the Nature Detectives handbook published by Miles Kelly Publishing but there are plenty available and it’s the kind of homework activity that many grandparents or older neighbours are brilliant at helping with. Sara also recommends Roger Phillips’s books ‘Wild Flowers of Britain’ and ‘Trees in Britain’.

At this time of year look out for conkers, old man’s beard, beech nuts, hazel nuts, crab apples, ivy, elderberries, blackberries, sloes, rosehips, acorns and seedheads. You may also have access to bay, rosemary, euonymous, weeping birch, cornus, viburnum tinus, jasmine , photinia and any number of evergreens in your school grounds. We’ll be providing our members with a list of recommended shrubs which can be planted over the winter in your school grounds to boost the availability of filler foliage for your flower arrangements.
Many will provide food for wildlife, opportunities for science topic work as well as foliage for your arrangements and art projects.

Not everything will last well in a vase. Conduct experiments and find out what works.

Here are a few suggestions for additional activities you can do with your foraged finds at this time of year.

Weave foliage around wire rings or use foliage which is flexible enough to wind into a simple circle and then secure with string. Then fasten your berries, nuts or acorns at intervals around the circle. Once the leaves start to fall, you can use them to make crowns or wreaths by sticking the leaves onto cardboard circles and then adding other foraged materials.

Set up a constantly changing nature table and label your finds.

Collect conkers, hold a conker championship and find out what else conkers are good for

Make blackberry and apple jam, crumble or blackberry fool.

Try out  Cally’s elderberry cordial recipe.

Collect seeds and plant a tree. Good seeds to look for are hazel nuts, beech nuts, seeds from Scots pine cones, acorns and sweet chestnuts. Check that they are fertile (they should sink in a bowl of water). Sow into a pot of sand and compost mixed. Pine seeds should be sown near the surface; others 2cm deeper. Label and leave in a cool, shady place until spring. Then water carefully  (not too much) and wait until they get to about 25cm tall before planting out in a space in your garden or school grounds.

Collect flower seeds. Check that they are ripe (not green), pick them off, dry them out, seive the seed to get rid of the chaff and save them in labelled envelopes to plant in the spring. Cornflowers, nasturtiums, poppies and calendula are all great choices.

If you’re lucky, the promised heatwave will continue and you won’t even need your wellies.

To find out more about our garden based educational programme for primary schools and home schoolers and receive weekly learning zone activities, direct to your inbox, click here.