Our Flower Patch

Inspiring a new generation of growers


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Treats for the end of term

Flower posies to say thank you to teachers

Pretty posies to say thank you

The end of term is fast approaching. It will soon be the school holidays and  flower patches should be looking rather abundant. Why not make the most of them?  Use the opportunity to give your flowers a good cut before the summer holidays and use the results of your prunings to make up some beautiful posies to say thankyou to anyone who has helped you during the school year.

Use a jam jar, tin can or other suitable container. If there is time you could decorate them with scraps of fabric or pieces of ribbon or raffia. Cut buckets of blooms and have a play at arranging them together.

Bright flower posy for a teacher

All things bright and beautiful

Cutting back your flowers before the school holidays can reap benefits for you if you are away from your patch a lot over the summer. School patches are often neglected over the summer and home patches are left for weeks on end too when families are away on holiday.  Cut your plants back reasonably hard just at the end of term, and give them a really good water, preferably with a drop of feed too. Don’t leave any flowers in bloom and you have a chance of there still being some around on your return from holiday. (weather depending of course) The sweet peas are a bit of an exception and unless you are picking every couple of days then they will all go to seed. Invite friends and neighbours to pick them. Hopefully someone will be tempted by their gorgeous scent to come in and cut them. If not then they will form seed pods which will be ready for you to collect seeds in September and sow in October.

Sweet peas and snapdragons as a thank you posy

Making the most of the patch harvest


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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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Six ways for flower growers to celebrate May Day

Toby-Bowood-Matt-Austin

A picnic at Bowood House. Photograph by Matt Austin Images.

All’s right with the world. Linda Snell has located. the Archers’ Maypole in time for the jubilant May Day celebrations in Ambridge at the end of the week. We love a party at Our Flower Patch and even though you are unlikely to find either of us dancing round a maypole on Friday, May Day is the perfect time of year for flower growers to stop, take stock and celebrate their hard work before their plots reward them with oodles of flowery loveliness and the odd weed.

Sara started celebrating early this year when she did a flowery photoshoot at Bowood House in Wiltshire in preparation for Toby Buckland’s Garden Festival on June 5th and 6th. Along with Saffy from Bath Flowersshe’ll be arranging, selling and generally shouting about homegrown British flowers. Why not pop along and chat to them? Don’t worry if you live too far away, Cally will be reporting on the festival for our school Flower Patch members and readers of this blog, so you won’t miss anything vital.

In the meantime back to May Day and our six top ways to celebrate this fertility festival and the start of summer.

Decorate a maypole or May tree

Unlike us, your young growers will probably love the idea of dancing round a maypole as a break from all the frantic planting, sowing and weeding. You’ll need a pole about three metres high to which you attach long ribbons. Aim for the ribbons to be about ¾ of the length of the pole. Plant the pole in a hole deep enough to prevent it swaying. Decorate the top of the pole with flowers or greenery. Then you’re ready for willing volunteers to grab an end of a ribbon and dance in and out, winding the ribbons round the pole.

Alternatively, decorate the trees on your plot with ribbons to celebrate the time of year. Write messages of thanks or hopes for the coming season on the ribbon. And if you don’t have any trees or large shrubs, plant some. Try to make it something from which you can harvest foliage for your cut flower arrangements. We like viburnum, euonymus, pittosporum and eucalyptus.

Hold a bonfire party

Traditionally cattle were driven between bonfires on the eve of May Day to rid them of evil spirits and keep them safe from harm. If you’ve been clearing space, then you might have plenty of material to burn. Getting together around a bonfire is a good way to reward your garden helpers for their hard work in getting your plot shipshape and provide space and time to chat about plans for the future. Obviously food is just as important as fire in any festival celebration which brings me neatly on to my next point.

Pack a picnic or hold a ‘bring and share’ feast on your patch where everyone brings something they love to make.

No celebration is complete without food. If you’re lucky, you might even have a few homegrown early strawberries to munch on or, at least, some jam made from last year’s crop to spread on scones. May Day marks the start of summer to me and so some homemade lemonade might start to make an appearance. You’ll find the recipe here.

Make a flower crown or a daisy chain.

Flowers are a big part of any May Day celebration. Floral crowns can be used to crown a May Queen or just to give your young growers some valuable practice at working with flowers to make something beautiful. If you choose a May queen then her throne (chair) can also be decorated with seasonal flowers. Check back through this blog for more information about flower crowns.

If your lawn is anything like mine it’s full of daisies. I love them and my daughter loves them even more as she has a steady supply with which to make daisy chains. If you wear a daisy chain around your head past midnight on May Day eve, you can attract good luck.

 Give a basket (or bunch) of flowers to a neighbour.

We have plenty of tulips on our patch at the moment but what might be even more special is a packet of seeds to spread the flowery love. Higgledy Ben our seed supplier has a huge array from which to choose.  Just a couple of packs will be enough to start a love affair with cut flowers. Soon you’ll be devoting a whole bed to a cutting patch. It’s good for bees and good for you, giving you a steady supply of beautiful blooms to cut for the house and saving you money. May Day tradition is that you must leave your gift in secret. If your neighbour spies you, they can claim a kiss apparently – so choose the lucky recipient wisely!!

Sow some herbs

Any excuse to get outside enjoying your garden is good and growing herbs is a great way to kick start a growing habit which will last a lifetime. I’m a fan of any plant which has more than one use. Growing herbs was the start of my love affair with gardening. One of my earliest memories is picking mint from an old Belfast sink and watching my granny make mint sauce. Herbs are bee-friendly plants, easy to grow, fragrant, edible and some make fabulous additions to cut flower posies. Rosemary, dill, mint, lavender and lemon balm regularly find their way into my jam jar posies.

Rosemary sage narcissi

Herbs and flowers are a natural pairing in Sara’s arrangements too.


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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.


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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.

 

 

 


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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