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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Eastfield Academy – encouraging literacy in the school garden

We often hear of good work going on in schools and nurseries around the country to encourage teachers to use the outdoor classroom. We know that taking children outside can open up all sorts of possibilities to teach a range of  skills and we thought this week would be a good week to highlight some of the initiatives we like. We asked Claire Lowery of Eastfield Academy in Northampton to share some of her experiences with our readers. Claire is positively evangelical about using the school garden to teach all kinds of skills. Here are just some of her ideas.

At Eastfield Academy we are very lucky to have a fantastic school vegetable patch. These are some of the ways in which we utilise the space to develop our early literacy in the Early Years. With a high proportion of our children having English as an Additional Language, huge emphasis is placed on encouraging the children to talk and to develop their vocabulary. We passionately believe that this is achieved through giving our children rich and real experiences. Therefore we take the children on weekly walks which take many guises…

 

In this instance the children created their own ‘treasure maps’ with meaningful marks. They then ‘read’ them to find the treasure. Perfect for encouraging reading and writing for a purpose.

making meaningful marks in the early years treasure hunt ourflowerpatch.co.uk

Treasure maps

 

Another example is from when we focused on developing the use of spoken prepositions. We hid ‘aliens’ all over the garden and encouraged the children to describe where they were.

Using spacemen as a stimulus for literacy in the early years outside classroom

Spacemen came travelling

 

We also like to create props in our workshop which we can then take to the school garden to test and use. In this instance we created bug catchers! Opportunities for reading the environmental print and signs were encouraged.

Bug hunting in an early years outside classroom

We’re going on a bug hunt!

 

 

I am yet to meet a group of children who are not intrigued by minibeasts. A good old fashioned minibeast hunt creates opportunities for talking and recording what they have found. Encouraging the children to pose questions and use reference books or the internet back in the classroom to find out more.

 

Minibeasts as a focus for literacy in an early years outside classroom

A mini-beast adventure.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Taking scissors out to the garden to trim the hedges is super cutting practice. We also set up some turf back in the nursery to continue with this skill development.

Early years children improving scissor skills in the outside classroom

Tiny topiary

early years hedge cutting scissor skills ourflowerpatch.co.uk

Snip snip!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Harvest time is a great time to develop those fine motor skills and hand-eye co-ordination needed for writing! Again positional language, describing words and counting all are developed here too.

Picking berries as a fine motor skill activity in the early years ourflowerpatch.co.uk

Harvest time.

flavouring yoghurt language skills early years ourflowerpatch.co.uk

Yummmmmmm

 

When we returned to Nursery we squished and squashed the blackcurrants to flavour the yogurt. Further opportunities to develop the children’s language- extending their vocabulary through developing describing words.

 

Following harvesting the pumpkins the children were challenged to predict what they thought would be inside the pumpkin. They made meaningful marks and drew, explaining to the teacher their thoughts and ideas about what they thought would be inside.

improving literacy in the outside classroom early years observational drawing pumpkin ourflowerpatch.co.uk

Pumpkin-tastic

Improving literacy in outside classroom inside pumpkin adjectives in early years ourflowerpatch.co.uk

Exploring inside a pumpkin

We then opened the pumpkin together and took it in turns to ‘feel’ the contents on the pumpkin using our describing words.

These are just a few of the examples of how we use the school vegetable patch and we can see that all of these opportunities to develop talk and early literacy will impact on their reading and writing as the children move through the school. Introducing the children to word groups such as adjectives, encouraging them to pose questions and organise their thoughts and ideas. Who would have thought it…grammar in the garden!


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Win a copy of ‘The Cut Flower Patch’ by Louise Curley

The Cut Flower Patch By Louise Curley front cover.

The Cut Flower Patch

I’m one of those people with a pile of books on my bedside table at various stages of being read. At the moment I have a couple of crime novels from the library, Jane Austen’s ‘Emma’, which I’m adapting for the stage for a local theatrical group, ‘The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry’ by Rachel Joyce, a business mentoring manual, Sarah Raven’s Christmas book and one which has been a constant source of inspiration and advice on the plot since I picked it up several  months ago. That book is Louise Curley’s highly readable and beautifully photographed insight into the home (or school) cut flower patch and is destined to grace my bedside table for many months yet. Louise is a regular columnist for the Guardian newspaper, Grow Your Own, The Simple Things and Gardens Illustrated magazines. I first came across her in her informative wellywoman blog and was delighted when I heard she was writing a book, telling the story of her cutting patch and offering inspiration to others.

Statice flowers perfect for drying.

Statice growing in a cut flower patch, perfect for drying.

Aspirational as well as inspirational Louise’s book is an enchanting yet  practical guide for anyone who wants to start a manageable cutting patch on their allotment or in the garden. She begins with a rationale for growing flowers both for pleasure and for wildlife and explains just how much can be grown in a relatively small space. There follow chapters on planning your patch (with top tips on what makes a good cut flower and suggested planting plans for beds), getting started, caring for your patch, cutting and arranging your flowers along with detailed notes on more than thirty annuals, biennials, bulbs, corms, tubers. There’s even a dedicated section on growing your own wedding flowers.

A bucket of freshly picked flowers.

Freshly picked blooms.

Louise also shows you how to supplement your patch with a spot of responsible foraging so that you’ll never be without something beautiful in your vase throughout the seasons. For those who like their advice in bite size visual chunks there’s a handy sowing and planting calendar and plot maintenance calendar included at the end along with a comprehensive list of Lou’s favoured resources. The book is liberally sprinkled with fantastic photographs by Jason Ingram, which really highlight the beauty you too could create at home or in your school garden.

Autumn collection, dried flower material and foraged berries.

Autumn Bounty. Dried stems and foraged goodies.

I can’t think of a better more readable book for novice flower growers who have been inspired to devote a bed or two to make a cutting patch or those who want to provide themselves with a vase or two of flowers every week for the home or to give to friends. Even more established growers will, I’m sure find plenty of handy hints and advice, and keep coming back for reference. Home grown flowers are in vogue. Rachel de Thame has been showing us how on Gardener’s World recently, an increasing number of flower farmers are growing and selling their blooms on a commercial scale and there is some indication that there will be a revival in local, seasonal flowers in the way there has in respect of local, seasonal food in the past few years. Sara and I have been spreading the flowery love around primary schools who are now preparing to supply parents and grandparents with blooms next year, as a clever and enjoyable way to raise funds for their school garden group.  Why not join the flower revolution?

British Flowers in a funky cardboard vase.

Fabulous vase! Gorgeous flowers.

Frances Lincoln have very kindly given us a copy of the book to give away to one lucky follower of our blog who is resident in the UK or Ireland. It’s a perfect early Christmas present for you or a friend (if you can bear to part with it).

All you need to do is subscribe to this blog, via WordPress or follow by email and leave a comment telling us the name of your favourite flower.

We’ll put all the names into a gardening hat in two weeks and get one of our young growing apprentices to draw out the name of the lucky recipient. We’ll publish the name of the winner here on November 18th.

If you can’t wait till then to get your hands on The Cut Flower Patch, you can buy it online and through independent bookshops, or via the RHS shop.