Last week, with our invitations from the Royal Horticulture Society, Martin the Horticulture Tutor and Project Manager from Normanby Hall, and two horticulture trainees, Laura and myself travelled down to London for the trainees first visit to the Chelsea Flower Show.
It was an early start for us on the Friday morning as we were invited to take part in a exciting VIP tour by the RHS followed by the young horticulturist breakfast hosted by The Newt in Somerset. Before telling you all about the delicious breakfast that had come from the working estate, I wanted to tell you a little bit more about the three gardens we visited on our VIP tour including meeting with the designers!
When everyone had arrived, we were split into 12 groups and taken around 3 individual gardens before the grounds were opened to the public.
The first garden we visited (which was one of my favourite gardens of the visit!) is called the Ice Garden by The Plantsman’s, designed by John Warland. The garden design included a 15-tonne block of ice to highlight climate change and the melting ice caps, of which 28 trillion tons have disappeared from the Earth’s surface since 1994.
The Ice Garden for me however had a positive note focusing on innovation. That within the permafrost scientists have and continue to discover and germinate seeds buried over 30,000 years ago and who knows, one of the plants that have been or yet to be discovered could be revolutionary in the fields of medicine, food and even in the battle against climate change.
The ice melts over the course of the flower show to finally reveal beautiful native plants that you would find in Siberia, such as the Iris siberica and the Betula pendula.
We really enjoyed getting up close and personal with the gardens on the tour and it was an amazing opportunity to get to hear from the designers themselves. At the last show garden we saw the BBC camera crew setting up to film so it was a very exciting morning indeed!
We headed back for breakfast hosted by The Newt and really enjoyed hearing from Sue Biggs, the Director General of the RHS, followed by Stephen Herrington, Head Gardener at The Newt, as they shared news, advice and inspiration about the many routes, bursaries and training that is on offer to support a career into horticulture. What made the talks even more enticing was tucking into the freshly baked pastries and strawberries which were handpicked from the estate that morning. Talk about fresh from the fields!
After breakfast we ventured out into a very busy Chelsea Flower show to look round the pavilions and some more show gardens. The garden I most wanted to see was the Grow2Know 'Hands off Mangrove' as it represents a lot of things that I support such as racial, social and environmental justice and these themes are entwined and explored through horticulture.
It was hugely inspiring to see such a wonderfully diverse community project and team win an award at Chelsea as we move away from viewing gardens as perfect and learn that access to green spaces can be huge tools in education and community well-being.
The Hands-off Mangrove was inspired by the events of Notting Hill’s Mangrove Nine in the 70’s and the global deforestation of mangrove which is a keystone species. The garden is a symbol of coexistence, (bio)diversity and resilience. The garden is a reflective of the community of Notting Hill, filled to the brim with plants that are perfect for an urban garden and after the Chelsea Flower Show the garden will be re-located back into the community which for me goes full circle and it is so wonderful to know that this garden and its legacy will live on for future generations to come.
There were many gardens that I would have loved to talk about and could write pages on the beautiful plants, designs, inspirational planting and the varied and vast roles and careers that are clearly abundant across the horticulture sector.
For me the biggest takeaway and positive was the vast number of native flowers, pollinators, re-wilding and biodiversity that ran throughout the show (and how there were garden inspirations for everyone from containers to hydroponics!). It shows just how far we’ve come to wanting to learn to live more in balance with nature and wildlife around us and how there really hasn’t been a more exciting time to consider a future career within horticulture.
I would like to say a huge thankyou to the RHS for inviting us along for an inspirational first visit to the Chelsea Flower Show, The Newt for a delicious breakfast and for making us feel so welcome, and to R-evolution for the opportunity to travel to London for the show and the horticulture course that I am loving with Martin at Normanby Hall. For now I am catching up with the 11 or so episodes on IPlayer of the Chelsea Flower Show and impatiently waiting for the Delphinium seeds I bought to germinate. With special thanks to all my seed sowing practice with Martin, I feel pretty competent it won’t be long until I have native perennials of my own growing in the garden reminding me of such a wonderful first trip to Chelsea!
See picture (left) of a pot and container garden including hydroponics system.
City and Guilds Level 1 Horticulture trainee
The sun came back, and decided to make up for last time!! Phew, hot hot hot! What a challenging year for growers and wildlife it has been.
We are delighted to announce that we now have our magnificent shed! It may look like just a shed to you, but to us on the plot it means we now have shelter from the elements - sun, rain and whatever else decides to descend! And, very importantly, we now have a socially distanced classroom area for our Diploma work. To say we are delighted really is an understatement!
Our thanks must go to The Finnis Scott Foundation for their generous grant of £1,400 that went towards the purchase of our shed and its construction. Finnis Scott support charitable horticulture, conservation and arts projects. Take a look at the fantastic work they do at: https://www.finnis-scott-foundation.org.uk/
We are so very grateful and proud of our new workspace. We felt it needed naming, and were initially tempted by Sheddy McShedFace…(!) We were also tempted to open it out for suggestions, but after looking into The Finnis Scott Foundation, we thought it was wholly appropriate to name our new building ‘Valerie’, after the wonderful lady whose generosity and purpose will have touched so many lives for the better.
Can’t wait to get Valerie looking as smart on the inside as she does on the outside, with tools and educational resources all neatly organised. Watch this space for interior photos…(We can't wait to show you!)
Where did all the sunshine go??
July has continued the trend of unexpected and unseasonal weather - strong winds, chilly temperatures, but thankfully some rain - not what we would typically associate with the height of summer, perhaps a more 'fleece on/fleece off climate!'
Nevertheless, in our stoic British way, we've carried on regardless and the plot is looking good. All produce beds are full of fruit, vegetables, and cut flowers growing away - albeit a bit slower and stunted by the weather but there's time yet.
The ground had been cleared for designing and marking our ornamental beds - these will be placed in Autumn with plenty of pollinator-friendly flowers and shrubs. Autumn is the perfect time for establishing a new bed - the ground is nicely warmed up, and you won't have to water constantly as you would if you planted at the beginning of Spring. We can't wait to choose all those lovely plants.
We have our biennial seeds growing away at Oldroyd's Corner (the Garden under Glass) - Wallflowers, Foxglove, Sweet Rockets and Sweet Williams - lovely cottage garden flowers.
The trainees have been learning about and identifying weeds, the biggest bane of a Gardener's life. But I like to think to know your weeds is to control your weeds! So we have been talking about methods to prevent and reduce weeds, as well as how to remove them. We don't do any spraying on the plot but lots of hoeing, hand weeding and mulching.
Here's hoping for a warm and balmy August, the combines are out, so here's wishing the farmers a successful harvest too!
We may have been feeling the strain of strange and anxious times but nature has been there spreading it’s magic and many of us have been appreciating its benefits to our wellbeing. In fact - more people than ever have discovered their gardens and if one good thing can come from the COVID crisis that’s got to be pretty near the top of the list!
On the Queensgate allotment we haven’t been dragging our heels and we have been filling the veg beds with some stock favourites - beans, sweetcorn, potatoes, kale, beetroot…to name but a few! The sight of little plants growing in rows always gives a feeling of hope and anticipation. What a wonderful month June is!
We are beginning our City and Guilds training programme in earnest with new recruits and tutors signed up. We are operating with smaller groups to remain within social distancing guidelines but we are fortunate to be outside and able to ‘keep calm and carry on’ with a few little adaptations in place!
Enjoy the sunshine and let’s dig for good health and a happy heart.
Stay safe and well everyone :)
The Horticulture Project has been continually growing (if you'll pardon the pun) since its beginning in 2019. With sites spanning 4 different locations, there's always work to be done, weeds to be pulled and produce to be harvested. As with everything else, it can be easy to forget just how far we've come. Here's a round up of the story so far... just in case you missed it!
Uncovering an allotment...
When we first took on our project allotment, it was a little bit worse for wear, with weeds as tall as us - and not a veg patch in sight!
Within an impressive two days, and fuelled by an unimaginable amount of tea and biscuits, we found our allotment.
Finding the veg patches and fixing that shed...
A similar story at Coronation Gardens...
Coronation Gardens is a formal public garden site based in Beverley. It was in need of a lot of work when we took it over, with graves completely covered with out of control weeds and ivy.
Coronation Gardens now...
The site is now calm, clear and peaceful. Exactly as it should be. Our Trainees did a fantastic job, and not only can they see the changes their hard work has made, but the benefit this change provides to the local community.
Perhaps one of the most rewarding aspects of work on the allotment is its produce! Our Trainees had a real influence on what was planted, and what they wanted to grow - which made the end results even more exciting! We were lucky enough to draw some incredible crop from our first year - in fact we were almost tired of apple or rhubarb crumble (until winter of course, when the cravings came back!)
We've had a great first year of The Horticulture Project - an idea that continues to get bigger. Trainees have loved the benefit of the outdoors, and the satisfaction of seeing the outcome of their hard work. With exciting things on the horizon, we can't wait for what the next year brings.. and the year after that!