Our Flower Patch

Inspiring a new generation of growers


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The No-Nonsense Guide to Green Parenting

Digging

We’re on the second year of our pilot outdoor learning and enterprise programme for primary schools Our Flower PatchThe more we work with teachers and their pupils, the more we have come to realise how unusual it is for some children to spend lots of time outside. When I’ve accompanied school trips or run gardening sessions in school there are a growing number of children who seem scared to venture too far away, seem anxious around mini-beasts and are afraid of getting their clothes and hands dirty. But when they get stuck in, good things happen.

WalkingAny opportunity to get out in the fresh air experiencing the simple pleasures of life, exploring and investigating at first hand is time well spent. The pressures of modern life, where often both parents work and teachers are concerned about getting through the increasingly proscriptive National Curriculum leave little time for free range learning and ‘wild time’. And parents and teachers are the first to feel guilty about it.

How refreshing then to come across a book for parents which opens up the possibilities of what can be done to ‘learn and play naturally’. The No-Nonsense Guide to Green Parenting is written by Kate Blincoe, former environmental educator, now mum to two growing children. Her ‘can do’ approach will strike a chord with anybody who wants to be that little bit greener, less wasteful and more creative in their approach to parenting. And, what’s more, you’ll find that many of Kate’s ideas are easy to achieve. You may even be doing some of them already.Cooking

The book covers everything from choosing toys, clothes and household products to cooking, growing, celebrating the seasons and getting out to explore the countryside. There are plenty of links to further resources and I’m particularly fond of the ‘grumpy granny’ sections – good old fashioned advice from someone who could be my own mother. It’s not rocket science, but in the craziness of parenting it provides reassurance that although it isn’t easy being green as a parent, getting back to the basics of natural play, gardening, cooking and taking walks outside with your children is achievable and good for everyone. If you feel swamped with the demands of modern living but want to take steps to get back to the simple things in life with your children, this is the book for you.

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The No-Nonsense Guide to Green Parenting by Kate Blincoe is published by Green Books and is available from October 8th. Readers of this blog can order from the publishers here using voucher code FLWR15 and get it for just £12.59 (RRP £17.99), and get free UK delivery on all orders. Offer valid 2nd October to 11th October 2015.

All images ©Phil Barnes


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The Crafted Garden by Louise Curley.

The Crafted Garden By Louise Curley

The eagerly awaited second publication by Louise Curley

Unfortunately I do not have as much time to read as I used to, apart from on holidays when I tend to lose myself in a grisly thriller by Tess Geritsen or Karin Slaughter. During the rest of the year the only things I manage to find time to read are horticultural books. They may be tending more towards the growing, top tips and advice about which varieties to grow for cutting, or more towards the arranging side of things. Not quite books, but I do also flick through bulb or seed catalogues to find new gems to grow in my own Flower Patch usually resulting in me selecting far too many “must have” tulip bulbs or dahlia tubers to grow. Obviously, they are all necessary purchases! One book I do find time to go back to again and again is the first book by Louise Curley “The Cut Flower Patch”. Avid followers of our blog will remember the review Cally wrote about it, if you missed it you can find it here. I still find it a source of inspiration and useful information. Therefore you can imagine I was eagerly awaiting Louise’s second book “The Crafted Garden”

The Crafted Garden is all about getting closer to natural items and using them to decorate our lives. Some of the projects could be used as decorations in your own home or to create items that could be given as very thoughtful gifts. Each project is thoroughly explained by Louise and beautifully illustrated with photographs by Jason Ingram. Each activity not only has a “How To” section explaining how to make the project, but contains background information and useful snippets about the plants, flowers, leaves or seedpods that are used to create it. The craft projects are arranged season by season, with plenty to get your teeth into in each section.

There are lots of projects that could easily be completed with children as part of your school garden group. There are also some that could be adapted to make them more child friendly, some projects may spark off an inspiration for you to take them in another direction with your garden group. But I’m sure you will gain many ideas from this book to give as gifts, for your home, school or for your sale tables at the Christmas and Summer fairs.

This is so much more than a garden craft book. By dealing with the horticultural elements of each of the “My Key Plants” used in each project, you will find out how to grow, propagate or be given suggestions of where to buy the plants used. As a grower I love this element of the book. It may mean that some of the projects take a bit longer to complete if you choose to grow the “ingredients” first from seed to complete an activity but that is all part of the journey of discovery. Rather than a tub of glue, glitter and stickers that will create something that is quickly discarded, some of the projects may live for weeks or longer, gracing your table or your windowsill, often with suggestions of then planting them into your garden to continue to grow and develop. It is all part of enjoying the changing of the seasons and appreciating what nature has to offer close up, kind of like the school nature table that so inspired Louise in her childhood.

Louise Curley - The Crafted Garden 01 (15th April 2014)

Delicate Spring flowers in eggshell vases.

One of my favourite activities is the eggshell vases. It reminds me of something I used to do as a child, but with the stylish twist of the weeping birch nest. A perfect way to see Spring flowers up close and remind us that the warmer brighter days are arriving.

The Crafted Garden by Louise Curley

Vibrant dahlias in squash vases.

I also love the squash vases. So bright and colourful and something I’ve not thought of doing with the ornamental or edible squash I grow most years. Perfect for a Harvest festival display in your home, or school. What a wonderful way of making just a few blooms look so special.

Louise also discusses responsible foraging, endangered moss and reminds us when flowers or plants are toxic. In a gentle way Louise helps us realise that creative projects can be made in such a way that they have a minimal impact on the environment. Reusing, re-purposing, recycling, re-creating and eventually composting your projects are all elements which are much discussed. Rather than traditional glitter why not use sugar frosting to bring a bit of sparkle to a Christmas table arrangement.

Louise has already inspired me to have a go at an unsealed terrarium. I potted up some offshoots of succulents into a variety of open topped glass containers. Here is one, as they say, I made earlier.

The Crafted Garden by Louise Curley

Succulent terrarium. Quick to make & very effective.

So if this review has inspired you to take a have a go at some of the projects in Louise’s new book take a look at the special offer we have for you. To order The Crafted Garden by Louise Curley at the discounted price of £13.99 including p&p* (RRP: £16.99), telephone 01903 828503 or email mailorders@lbsltd.co.uk and quote the offer code APG355.
*UK ONLY – Please add £2.50 if ordering from overseas.

Images extracted from The Crafted Garden by Louise Curley, photography by Jason Ingram. Published by Frances Lincoln.


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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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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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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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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

 


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Fabulous, festive, foliage wreaths!

Christmas foliage wreath primary school tutorial ourflowerpatch.co.uk

Here’s one I made earlier!

After last week’s post discussing what foliage to look out for in your local environment, this week we provide you with a tutorial on how to make a wreath with all that lovely, foraged foliage.

You can also watch it using this link.

If you have any questions please get in touch with us, contact details are on the website ourflowerpatch.co.uk

We’d love to see if you have a go at a wreath, after watching the tutorial. You could post a comment here, or a photo on Twitter or our Facebook page.

As we know how busy your schools will be from now until the end of term, this will be our last blog post of the year. We’d like to wish our member schools and all our followers a very Happy Christmas and a peaceful New Year. May your flowers bloom and the sun shine on you all.

Happy growing in 2015

Sara & Cally

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