Our Flower Patch

Inspiring a new generation of growers

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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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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.