Half Term hijinks

a visit to St Pancras
a visit to St Pancras

We’ve had a busy few weeks. I finally managed to plant all the daffodil and allium bulbs I ordered back in the summer; we finished painting the front door and the children’s bedrooms; two school residentials to the Brecon Beacons and the Lake District have been undertaken; large batches of Christmas chutney have been made; I ran an Autumn themed workshop for the National Trust and we managed to fit in an exciting trip to London.

Sarah and I went up on the train for a girly jaunt around my old Bloomsbury and Euston haunts (including bumping into my old PGCE lecturer at the Institute of Education), a visit to the British library, which Sarah has wanted to do for ages and a stay in a hotel complete with posh bubble bath, facemasks and telly in bed! The boys used the car and stayed with the in-laws and visited the poppy installation at the Tower of London.

Spectacular_poppies_Tower_of_London_

We did meet up on Wednesday though – for the main reason for our London trip. The services of the youngest member of the family were required by Radio 4 Extra for a recording of Junior Just a Minute with Nicholas Parsons, Josie Lawrence and Jenny Eclair who were charming and hilarious in equal measure.

Now the children are back at school, Ian is once more trekking round the country, the Christmas cake is in the oven and I am back at work writing materials for the Abington Park Outdoor Classroom Project and Our Flower Patch.

I’ll be writing about the former soon on this blog. In the meantime you can read a bit about Our Flower Patch here in an interview we gave to Michelle Chapman. Incidentally we have a giveaway on the Our Flower Patch blog this week. All you have to do to win the best book I have come across on growing cut flowers at home (Louise Curley’s The Cut Flower Patch) is to leave a comment and subscribe to the blog. Simple!

St Piran, budding flower patches and Lenten abstinence

st piranIt’s St Piran’s Day, patron saint of Cornwall. What better way to celebrate than by supporting a Cornish seed supplier? It’s hardly surprising that one or two British flower growers have chosen to set up business in that corner of the British Isles including Higgledy Ben, who is the seed supplier for members of Our Flower Patch and has fed my seedaholic tendencies for a few years.

We’ve started our very own flower farm at school – albeit on a modest scale – with seed supplied from Cornwall. A few hardly annuals were planted by Year 5 back in the autumn and over the next few weeks Year 6 are driving the project forward, setting up a proper eco flower business. We hope to have a Friday flower market in operation at school from May and one or two blooms available before that, as we planted some bulbs and biennials back in the autumn too. I need to restock my own allotment flower patch too.

If you want to grow a few cut flowers yourself this year may I suggest Louise Curley’s new book as an excellent place to start. You can get oodles of advice too from Higgledy Garden’s website and I will put up a few top tips gleaned from #britishflowers hour on Twitter over the last few weeks.

I would have celebrated St Piran’s day with a scone and clotted cream but it’s the start of Lent and I rashly decided to give up brown food. Think about it. No bread, potatoes, cakes, scones, pastries, beer, chocolate. No meat…. not a problem for this vegetarian. No coffee.

Ummm. No coffee?

I may have to decide that coffee stays. It’s not a food after all. Some things one just can’t do without.

Inclement weather, winter roses and toasted buns

Snow Queen 2014 008

Gerda played by Sarah Smart

Unlike my stateside sister and her family, who are waistdeep in snowdrifts at present, I can spot signs of Spring all around. The birds are happily house hunting and carrying out home improvements before moving in and it looks like my front garden daffs will be blooming in time for St David’s Day. Even the rain couldn’t spoil Half Term week, which means ‘showtime’ around here.

Last week the whole family were involved in a production of The Snow Queen, helping to transport the good folk of Bradford on Avon to the frozen North for a final showdown between the evil ice maiden and gutsy Gerda whose hope and faithful love – symbolised by a rose which bloomed in the depths of Winter – won the day. Toasted buns also featured prominently. I’d never refuse one of those.

As you know, I’m not one for flowers which bloom out of season but I like the idea of something good being symbolised by a flower. And so I am declaring this week Flower Patch Week.

There are three good reasons for this.

  1. Sara and I launch our new business later today.  Our Flower Patch will help primary schools and pre schools teach the new National Curriculum in a practical, hands-on way by growing cut flowers for sale. It’s true that any subject can be taught in the garden and you get to sell the product of your labours. Win. Win. Do check out the website and see what you think. Pass the information on to any primary school you know of.
  2. Our good friend and twitterchum Lou publishes her new book The Cut Flower Patch on March 6th to help and encourage allotment holders and gardeners grow cutting patches of their own.
  3. My new class at Fitzmaurice Primary have declared themselves up for the challenge of running a successful flower growing business in the school grounds.

And so, to celebrate Flower Patch Week I’d like you all to toast a bun or two and commit EITHER to tweeting pictures of last year’s cut flower successes OR to growing some cut flowers this year. In the case of intentions, tweet pics of what you’d like to grow. Advice and encouragement is on hand from myself, Sara and Lou. And you’ll be doing oodles for biodiversity, low flower miles, seasonality and the availability of british flowers.

Come on and celebrate Flower Patch Week with a flowery tweet to me @countrygate or @ourflowerpatch.

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