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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“When you see someone putting on his big boots, you can be pretty sure that an adventure is going to happen.”

Wellington boots on for adventures in school gardens.

Putting on your ‘big boots’ for an adventure.

We quite agree with this quote from one of the world’s most famous bears. Last Sunday January 18th was ‘Winnie the Pooh Day’, the anniversary of the birth of his creator A.A Milne. I don’t know a single child who hasn’t enjoyed the tales of Pooh and his friends in the Hundred Acre Wood. With his penchant for honey and reliance on bees, Pooh Bear would love the fact that we’re spreading the love for flower patches everywhere.

More flowers equals more nectar.

More nectar equals more bees.

More bees equals more honey.

More honey equals one very happy bear.

Winnie the Pooh is a kind bear who cares about his friends and always seems to be happy and positive. A fantastic role model for little people. He’s full of sensible advice for life like appreciating the little things, relaxing, and he knows the benefits of doing nothing from time to time, keeping life simple. We love his philosophy.

We could think of nothing better than celebrating the day by creating some artwork, reading a Winnie the Pooh story and holding a picnic with honey sandwiches in your school flower patch. After all, you’re creating your own ‘enchanted place’, a perfect patch to feed the bees and feed the soul. And as Pooh’s favourite day is ‘today’, it makes little difference if you’re a few days late celebrating the day itself.

And it won’t be long before your school garden group will be able to start sowing seeds to make your dream ‘bee friendly’ patch a reality.

If you like the idea of joining in the adventure with Our Flower Patch in your own school garden then take a look at our website for more information on how easy it is to become a member and start receiving weekly lesson plans for outdoor education activities.

Winnie the Pooh and friends having a picnic.

Winnie the Pooh and his friends have a picnic.

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It’s time to get sweet!

Sweet peas, scented gorgeous British flowers for your school garden.

Waiting for these beauties again next year!

Having spent a fab day wandering round the Natural History Museum with my three year old, well, when I say wandering, I mean rushing from one button to press to the next wheel to turn, as a three year old does! My family and I went to visit the stunning poppy installation at The Tower of London, more of that on our latest news, later in the month! Having been tourists for a while it was really lovely to settle down to lunch with a twitter chum and fellow British Flowers enthusiast Shamini, from Flowers by Shamini. As you can imagine talk soon turned to floweryness. Talking about our successes and favourites, firsts and lasts! Shamini has decided she can’t get on with Cleomes, one of my faves, so gave me some Cleome seeds. She also gave me some sweet pea seeds she had collected herself. Very exciting! So I’ve set to planting them, perfect timing as I had this blog post to write, floral serendipity at work again!

So the idea is that by planting some of your sweet pea seeds in the Autumn (October – November) you can get an earlier flowering next year. It’s a good idea to save some of your sweet pea seeds to plant in the Spring (February – April) also though. It works as successional sowing, but also as a fall back plan should anything go awry with your Autumn sown seeds. If anything does go wrong, it’s usually mouse or slug related. Mice love sweet pea seeds, especially as they are just germinating! Slugs prefer the new young shoots, so protect as appropriate for the stage of growth.

I am a relative new-comer to growing sweet peas, mostly due to the fact that I have a neighbour who grows them to prize winning standard, and indeed judges sweet peas for both the National Sweet Pea Society and the RHS. As he sells his ‘spares’ locally there was little reason for me to grow them. I have however always loved the scent of them and so grew a few plants for my own home vases this year. What  generous plants they are, the more you pick the more they flower. That can be said for many cut flower plants, but sweet peas seem especially abundant! In fact I’ve heard some British Flower Growers moan towards the end of the sweet pea season that they are fed up of the constant harvesting, but then they most likely have a ‘few’ more plants than me, or you in your school garden!

They are easy to grow, mine were sown by a young friend of mine, in fact it was the first time he had sown a flower seed. Due to the size of the seed it makes it nice and simple for even small children to sow. Although if you want to grow to competition standard there are lots of stages to tieing in and supporting the growth, for most growers, they are relatively simple. Provide them with something to scramble up and they will quite happily. I used hazel poles formed into a triangular frame, but some growers use a teepee of sticks, or green pea & bean netting.

Where to sow? Some advise to sow into toilet roll tubes, in fact I have also advised this in the past. However I am beginning to change my mind about this method. The card tubes can either dry out too much or become mouldy, which in itself is not too serious but when working with young people it is better safe than sorry, plus who wants mould in their cold frames, greenhouses etc! So this time I am sowing into compost in normal plastic plants pots, the taller the better, as sweet peas do like a nice long root run. Sow two to four seeds per pot, depending on the size of the pot, push the seeds about 3cms into the compost, cover back over with compost, water and label the pots with the name of the seed and the date of sowing. It’s also a good idea to write on the label how many seeds you have sown per pot. Then you can work out how many have germinated later. You may think it’s not worth labelling every pot, but believe me it is! Pots often get moved around, and it’s so easy to lose track of what’s what, but if each pot is individually labelled that won’t be a problem. Keep your seed pots in a frost free greenhouse, cold frame or in a protected space outside. Keep an eye out for mice, or protect against them in the manner you see fit. One grower has had success in the mouse wars by spreading holly branches over her pots, they proved too spiky for the mice, and they left her seed pots alone, having previously devoured the unprotected pots. Others have placed their pots on a shelf suspended from the bars of their polytunnel, and this seems to have defeated the mice who have obviously not watched Mission Impossible! Let us know what ingenious methods you come up with to protect your sweet peas from your local mice population. I might try chilli flakes this year, as I’ve heard that mice don’t like them!

Toddler sowing seeds

My smallest helper!


Pinch out the main growing stem after you see two pairs of true leaves, this is to promote side shoot formation, which will give you buckets more blooms to sell to raise money for your school garden group.

Then apart from keeping an eye out for slugs as the weather improves, and checking on them occasionally to make sure they have not dried out too much, the soil should be just moist, rather than damp or soggy, there is not too much to do until next year, when it comes time for planting out, usually in March or April, but be guided more by your weather than a strict calendar date. Plant out with plenty of organic matter or well rotted manure.


For more detailed information on sweet peas please see the National Sweet Pea Society.