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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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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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.

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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.


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Reading by the pool…. or what does a flower farmer read on holiday!

Poolside reading

Not a bad view from the holiday office!

I was lucky enough to squeeze in a family holiday in the middle of September. It will be our last mid September holiday as a family for a while as my son starts Reception class next September – how did THAT happen!! It was also a way for us to “celebrate” my 40th birthday – HOW DID THAT HAPPEN? Apart from my knees I still feel 24!! Now that I grow flowers as a business it is quite hard to find an appropriate time to take a holiday. There is always something to be done at the Patch, sowing, growing, harvesting selling! But I recruited some lovely friends to go and pick for themselves, and deadhead and came back to a flower patch in a glorious state of floriferousness (wasn’t even sure that was a word – but I’ve just checked and the Collins English Dictionary online says it is!)

So what does a flower grower take on holiday as poolside reading? We were lucky enough to receive a review copy of “The Flower Farmer’s Year” by Georgie Newbery just before I left. So with that and a downloaded copy of “Fresh from the Field Wedding Flowers” by Lynn Byczynski and Erin Benzakein on my iPad, I was pretty much set. I even managed to squeeze in a bit of grizzly, homicide, thriller action by Tess Gerritsen as a complete change!!

Georgie Newbery is one of the first flower farmers I came across on Twitter. It was Higgledy Garden‘s Ben, the Our Flower Patch seed supplier, that got me into Twitter in the first place, and I soon found a whole array of wonderful, funny, supportive British Flower Growers there. It’s a great support network for me, a place to ask questions, bounce ideas, have a laugh and gain support on tough days. As has been said before it is likely that without Twitter, Cally and I would not have re-connected and therefore Our Flower Patch would not have been created.

For those of you who haven’t come across her, Georgie is a flower farmer in Somerset. She grows, cuts and arranges flowers for bouquets, weddings & gifts. They run many workshops at Common Farm Flowers and now, the much anticipated book is due to be published in October.

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

My poolside reading!

The title of the book is “The Flower Farmer’s Year. How to grow cut flowers for pleasure and profit.” As the title suggests, the book is slightly more focussed on the business element of growing flowers than some of the others out there.  There are sections on the main groups of flowers that can be used for cutting. Georgie is a big fan of sweet peas, dahlias and roses, so these all get their own dedicated section, and then other sections cover annuals, biennials, perennials, shrubs etc. Georgie doesn’t try to tell you what you should grow. She mentions some of the things that are grown at Common Farm Flowers, and suggests that you experiment to find others that you like. Whilst there are some plant lists, she herself says they are not exhaustive. Rather they are a starting point  for you to adapt to your taste in flowers, colour schemes and what you can fit into your growing space. There is a flower farmer’s year planner as an appendix, which gives ideas of what you could sow or plant, harvest, propagate and other jobs that may need doing each month and a list of the types of plants that are grown at Common Farm Flowers.

One of the beds at Common Farm Flowers.

Some of the beds at Common Farm Flowers.

Whilst there are some very good elements for the beginner flower farmer – building a propagation sand box and constructing raised beds and how to lay out a larger scale cut flower patch for example – I would suggest that the majority of the book is aimed at gardeners with some experience and is more of a guide to take you forward in your quest to grow and sell flowers, with sections on how to start your business, where to sell and how to market your flowers.

There is a section in Georgie’s book called a Hedgerow Christmas explaining how to make willow wreaths and garlands. They grow a lot of willows with vibrantly coloured stems at Common Farm Flowers, and use them to make wreath bases, these can then be dressed with hedgerow garlands. As you know, our aim is for your young growers to set up mini eco-enterprises and sell their flowers as a way to raise funds within your school, and we will give you tips and hints on how to approach this as the season progresses. So why not take inspiration from Georgie and try some natural Christmas decorations?  We will be talking more about these in Our Flower Patch latest news as the season draws closer.

Some inspiration for the upcoming festive season.

Some inspiration from Common Farm Flowers for the upcoming festive season.

There is also a lovely section about growing wildflowers. Georgie and her husband Fabrizio are committed to making sure that their flower farm functions not just as a wildlife friendly area but as a wildlife beneficial area. They use no chemical weedkillers or pest controls. They positively encourage all manner of wildlife into the area to act as a ‘biological pest control army’.  The native wildflowers are an important part of this, as are wilder areas of nettles and comfrey (both also useful as natural plant food – with recipes included in the book). Georgie lists some of the wildflowers that she grows and uses in her bouquets and wedding work. Some of these may already be growing in the wilder verges of your school garden, so why not go and forage for them, but leave some for the benefit of your wildlife.

We also strongly encourage a wildlife beneficial approach to gardening in your school flower patch! It just makes sense to us! And we hope it does to you too! Why not take a look at becoming a member of Our Flower Patch so you can find out even more about our education programme to help you fully utilise your school garden as a learning zone.

Adonis Blue on a cornflower.

Gorgeous Adonis Blue butterfly feasting on a cornflower.


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Introducing Marigold

Images from the book Marigold.

Images from the book Marigold.

It seems that Sara and I are not the only ones hoping to inspire a new generation of growers. Tracy Wathen-Jones is on a mission to teach children about the benefits of growing organically. She’s just self-published the first in what she hopes will be a series of tales about Marigold the Organic Gardening Witch and her adventures. This one touches on subjects like companion planting, conserving water, dealing with slugs and growing your own food. The book is beautifully illustrated by Sarah Leigh-Wills, who has a real eye for what would delight a young reader and it would make an interesting starting point for discussions with your own children or a class about how to manage your garden organically.

Tracy’s passion for organic growing is obvious. We asked her about what got her started and why she thinks it’s so important to encourage children to grow things.

My Nan was a market gardener with about an acre of greenhouses, fruit cages and vegetable beds and I remember spending hours with her in her garden as soon as I could walk.
When children grow their own food and flowers it stimulates their natural curiosity, teaches them a sense of responsibility and connects them to nature.

Tracy has just finished the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movement’s EU Organic leadership programme and is working on her MSc in organic farming at the moment alongside being mum to her four children. It was when she was homeschooling her children on their smallholding in Ireland that Tracy decided that the way forward for her to ‘teach’ about organic growing and farming was through story telling. She has plenty of horticultural achievements to draw on when writing.In Ireland my husband and I set up our own independent garden centre and in its first year it won ‘Best Plant Centre’ for Ireland and we also won a gold medal for a large show garden we created for a garden festival named ‘Backyard Camping’.

Many schools garden using organic principles and Tracy has some top tips for getting the best out of your organic plot.

1.Look after and feed your soil.

2.Companion plant vegetables and flowers together to attract beneficial insects into your garden.

3.Rotate vegetable crops around the garden to prevent a build up of soil borne pests and diseases.

She’s also clear about why it is so important to get a new generation of people into gardening?

Our gardens form a mosaic of habitats across the UK which provide a home for wildlife, can feed us with home grown produce and provide us with a sense of well being. Therefore it is vitally important to encourage the next generation to appreciate gardening and learn the necessary skills needed to garden sensitively. 
Tracy’s book is available priced at £7.99 from her website