Saturday, 11 May 2013

Gardeners of the future win awards

So much interest in the School Gardens section
One of my earliest memories at school in north London in the early 1940s was learning to distinguish between an ash and horse-chestnut bud and then painstakingly to draw a twig of each to show the difference.

"Look, listen and absorb"
Later, in the late 60s when I became a teacher, I encouraged my young pupils to look around them, at wild flowers,  annual and perennial plants and trees, and the landscape in which they grew. I wanted to see them – and their parents – curious about the world in which they are growing up, and passionate about books – and, of course, gardens.

And books have been the theme for the children’s and students’ gardens this year. The results are ingenious and many show an understanding of bio-diversity, focussing on “issues that affect everyone, and how we can make the world a better place to live.”

Checking on the planting, with one of the children's project books
Books upon which the School Gardens were based ranged from Peter Rabbit and Winnie the Pooh, Charlie & the Chocolate Factory, The Secret Garden, Alice in Wonderland, The Jungle Book, The Green Ship, The Chicken Gave it to Me, The Hodgeheg, Where;s Wally, The Railway Children, to The Wizard of Oz and The Iron Man, The Selfish Giant and Romeo & Juliet. 

Usborne Books gave a
book to each
The gardens have been judged for certificates of commendation by a panel from the RHS and Three Counties Agricultural Society. In addition, Frank Hill from CPRE (Campaign to Protect Rural England) joined the other judges to make cash awards to top gardens.

'100 Plants that almost
changed the world
Lots of awards were given for serious and whacky categories – from best grower to wackiest wellingtons. Awards were presented by Gardener and Author, Chris Beardshaw, who also donated a copy of his latest book to every school for their library. The gardens were sponsored by Bam Construct Ltd, whilst Blue Diamond sponsored the plants, trees and shrubs used .

Interpreting a theme is not easy
Whatever book title was selected by participating schools and colleges, they clearly perceived that gardens should be more than ornamental; all included ‘edibles’ in their designs. Maybe campaigns running over recent years to encourage healthy eating have been sufficiently successful that at last plenty of fruit and vegetables has impinged on their gardening.

Sweetcorn growing in the Wizard of Ox garden
And the marvellous news is that Horticulture is to become a part of the National Curriculum from September 2014, a step welcomed by the RHS. Sarah Cathcart, RHS Head of Education and Learning says, “We have been campaigning for this for nearly 10 years so we are thrilled that the Government has recognised the need for children to be taught gardening at school. We now need to help teachers and school staff get the support they need to teach horticulture to children.”

Busy, busy, busy
More reading will be involved for pupils and students participating next year, for the 2014 theme is to be ‘Great Moments in History’. The choice is enormous – with over 8,500 years since the recognised emergence of civilisation, there are plenty of events to choose from. Make sure you come back next year to enjoy the results.

Shopping Spree post will appear later this evening, or first thing tomorrow.

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