Our Flower Patch

Inspiring a new generation of growers


Leave a comment

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.


4 Comments

Six Top Tips for sowing seeds with children.

 

Higgledy Garden seed packet

Little packets of hope and promise

So, it’s that time of year when you start seeing seed packets everywhere. Little packets of hope & promise, often with bright shiny photos on the front. Most of us have been tempted to pop a packet or two into the trolley or basket at this time of year. In fact if you are one of the #Britishflowers seedaholics you might be tempted by more than one or two packets. In fact you might find you take your new purchase home to find you already have the exact same variety already. Of course that would *never happen to me!

Flower seed box

Just one or two packets!

If you are an Our Flower Patch member you will already have your wonderful Higgledy Garden seeds, sat waiting patiently. If not then you can always join us, buy from Higgledy, or pick up some flower seeds that look promising.

How can you help seed sowing go well with children. Here are our six top tips.

  1. When filling modules or pots with compost make sure they are well filled. They should be filled to just below the rim. The levels should be checked again after tamping.
  2. Don’t overtamp the compost. The compost should be gently firmed into the pot or module into which you are going to sow seeds. This is often best done by tapping the pot onto a firm surface, rather than letting the children press the compost into the pot.
  3. Sow from a plate – children often find it easier to push seeds off one by one from a plate, or from the crease of a piece of folded paper. They may find it difficult to sow smaller seeds thinly from their hand. The plate method may help with this.

    Sowing seeds from a plate

    Sowing from a plate may be easier for small seeds and small fingers.

  4. Mix small seeds with fine sand for direct sowing. This helps you see where you have sown and also helps the seeds be distributed more evenly.
  5. Don’t overwater. Best practice is to either water the soil before sowing for direct sowing. Or in the case of sowing into modules or pots, place the newly sown pot into a tray of water to allow the water to soak up from the bottom. You could also use your wheelbarrow to do this. Both pre-watering and bottom soaking reduce the risk of washing away seeds with over enthusiastic watering. Pots and modules should only be watered when they are dry. Don’t keep them too damp whilst the seeds are germinating.
  6. Labelling. No matter how well you think you will remember which pot had cosmos and which had cornflower, you will most likely forget. Make sure everything you sow is labelled, whether it be a pot, a module or a direct sown row. Apart from anything when you are growing plants in a school environment other helpful people may move things around.

Hopefully these top tips will help you sow seeds successfully with children. We’d love to hear any of your top tips. Please share them in the comments, on our Facebook page, or our Twitter feed.

*has happened…frequently…probably every year I end up with doubles!

Zinnia with bee

Soon you too could have blooms like this.

 


Leave a comment

Biennial blitz

Sweet Williams

Sweet indeed!

We’ve been picking sweet williams, foxgloves, honesty, iceland poppies and sweet rocket for weeks. All the hard work this time last year has paid off. If you would like a harvest of fragrant purple, white, pink, red and apricot on your patch next year then now, after the Summer solstice is the time to put in the work. Great gardeners are always looking ahead as well as taking care of their existing crops. And if you’re one of our member schools it’s great to be planning ahead for next year in the garden too and still have seeds to sow now.

We sow our biennials into seed trays around this time and pot them on in  a few weeks. By the time we plant them out in the autumn they will have formed sturdy plants which will be able to withstand slug attack and the worst the British winter can throw at them. They’ll also fill up space on your patch in the autumn so you won’t have to worry about soil erosion, leaching of minerals from the soil or weed infestation. Then, next spring, once the temperature rises you can watch them romp away, giving you bucket loads of pleasure (quite literally) for weeks. What’s not to love? Start sowing.

Biennial seedlings in a seed tray.

Biennial seedlings coming along nicely.

If you’re sowing with school groups it’s a perfect opportunity to give your young growers some responsibility. How about a holiday job of caring for a tray of seedlings at home, potting them on and bringing them back to school next term to plant out? Any spares can be sold to parents or, better still, exchanged for some bulbs which can be planted in your patch or around the school grounds.

Spread the flower love. Go on. You know it makes sense.

For more information, why not check out our chum, seed supplier and all-round flowery good egg Higgledy Ben’s biennial sowing guide? He knows a thing or two about flowers.


Leave a comment

Seeds are sprouting (from March 24th)

Ammi majus in full flower

Ammi majus in full flower

I thought I would update you on how things are doing in my own greenhouse. Things have been popping up all over the place. Its great fun to go out and check on my little babies every day. One of the youngsters in one of our pilot schools commented that growing things was a bit like being in charge of a baby, and it really can be! You have to make sure they are kept at a comfortable temperature, and have the right conditions. Give them enough water, but not too much, and when they are ready for it give them food, and protect them from all that the big wide world has to throw at them! But don’t panic, we will guide you through the whole process as a member of Our Flower Patch.

 

I grow ‘quite a few’ different types of seeds; I think I counted 81 different seed packets last year (it will certainly be more this year!!) That did include about five different types of cosmos, and probably six different sunflowers though! I always love to try new things, but I do have quite a few favourites that I wouldn’t be without. Amongst these are the seeds that are sent out once you join Our Flower Patch. You will receive sixteen gorgeous packets of the finest Higgledy Garden seeds. Fifteen flowers and an ornamental grass.

 

One of the seeds you will get is Ammi majus also known as Bishop’s weed. I have sown some already in my greenhouse. It is popping through slowly. These seeds were sown about ten days ago. It’s hard to believe at this stage that soon enough it will be flowering its socks off and looking like the photo on the right. Ammi majus looks a little like a prettier cow parsley. It’s a lovely filler flower, and I certainly wouldn’t be without it.

 

Ammi majus seedlings at 10 days.

Ammi majus seedlings at 10 days.

 

My calendula seeds have romped away. They were the first to show little green shoots out of the selection of seeds I sowed ten days ago. Calendula is also a flower our members receive. Cally loves it as it has more than one use, we include a recipe for Calendula salve and another for Calendula fudge on our members pages. It was Cally’s desert island flower when Louise Curley wrote about us here. I love the shape of calendula seeds; you can see a seed case clinging to the shoot in the photo below. I tend to pick calendula in bud to use in a vase as then it lasts longer. It still looks fab as a seed head in a vase though. As you can see the bees and pollinators love the sunny calendula flowers too!

Calendula seedlings at 10 days.

Calendula seedlings at 10 days.

 

 

calendula bud

Calendula bud, a good stage for picking.

 

Calendula flower with bee.

Calendula flower with a hungry bee.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The sweet peas that I planted ten days ago are slowly emerging. They have a little way to catch up with the ones sown seven weeks ago though!

Sweet pea seedlings at 10 days.

Sweet pea seedlings at 10 days.

 

Sweet pea seedlings at seven weeks.

Sweet pea seedlings at seven weeks.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Why not get in touch to tell us how things are growing with you? Or join us to receive your seeds to start growing along with us?


Leave a comment

Happy St Piran’s Day (from March 5th)

Benjamin Ranyard of Higgledy Garden seed supplier to Our Flower Patch.

Saint Benjamin Borage. (photo courtesy of Higgledy Garden)

March 5th is St Piran’s Day – patron saint of Cornwall. Here on Our Flower Patch we’ll be celebrating by raising a scone to our very own Cornish ‘saint’. Higgledy Ben supplies all our members with sixteen tried and tested packs of flowery loveliness to get them started. Thanks Ben.