mini gardeners

inspiring gardening projects for children


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Chelsea – a sneaky peek

The so-called “greatest flower show on earth” opens its doors to the public tomorrow morning. On your behalf, dear readers, I have been rubbing shoulders with celebrities and enjoying a sneak preview of the Chelsea Flower Show at press day today.

The show gardens are, as ever, fabulous works of art with many exquisite planting schemes. chelsea flower show 2014 Foxgloves were very popular again this year and lupins featured in several gardens. lupins at the chelsea flower show

With many blue/white/pink herbaceous planting schemes around, Alan Titchmarsh’s first Chelsea garden in 30 years was refreshingly different and based on moorland sloping down to the coast.

chelsea alan titchmarsh garden I loved this moss in one of the smaller artisan gardens, and am wondering if it would be difficult to copy at home… detail of moss at chelsea flower show

In the floral pavillion, schoolchildren were on hand at the Miracle-Gro stand to explain their experiments in growing the same plant in different types of soil/compost. A brilliant idea that I will be copying with school gardening clubs.

chelsea compost experiment The ‘strangest item of the day’ award went to a 6ft dinosaur with rosebud tongue. chelsea dinosaur

At times it was difficult to concentrate on the gardens due to the high number of celebrities wandering around so I’ll finish with the name-the-celebrity game. (Apologies for the Hello!/OK!-style lapse, normal service will be resumed as soon as possible.)

jerry hall at the chelsea flower show rowan atkinson at the chelsea flower show monty don at the chelsea flower show chelsea celebs chelsea celebs

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A blast from the past

the ladybird book of garden flowers

When I was growing up, everybody had Ladybird books. The fairy tales were my favourites, particularly Rumplestiltskin and the Princess & the Pea, and I can still picture the distinctive illustrations all these years later.

I can’t remember whether I ever had the Ladybird Book of Garden Flowers but in a fit of nostalgia, I ordered an old copy for myself recently.

And it’s amazing how much horticultural detail is crammed into this little book; descriptions of flowering plants with their relevant plant family and the type of soil they thrive in. No gimmicky cartoon characters in sight, just dated but strangely appealing illustrations.

ladybird book of garden flowers

I love the way the book is written in a slightly formal prose as befits a book first published in 1960. I think my version must have been published around 1973, because there is a decimal price on the back cover and it refers to over 330 ladybird titles – see here for a quick guide on how to date old ladybird books.

Let me leave you with a little gem from the introduction:

I know you will enjoy growing flowers once you start, because there is no more satisfactory hobby.”


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Off with its head! (The short life of a rhubarb flower)

rhubarb flower

Our rhubarb has flowered for the first time. We spotted the huge flower bud a week or so ago and had the sharpened secateurs at the ready. Conventional wisdom dictates that it must be decapitated immediately otherwise the plant will be weakened by the energy required for seed production and hence be less productive.

But we were curious. And the huge flower bud has been pushed skywards on one of the thickest flower stalks we’ve ever seen and a flower resembling mini red cauliflowers looks set to emerge. (The photo above was taken on a phone so it’s not as clear as it might be.)

Flowering can be a response to rhubarb undergoing some sort of stress; too cold, too hot, not enough water, starved of nutrients. Anything that potentially shortens its lifespan so it sends up a flower to reproduce. I suspect that in our case the flowering is likely to be due to the plant maturing. We inherited the rhubarb when we took on the allotment so I have no idea how old it is or even what cultivar it is.

So perhaps it’s time to think about dividing the rhubarb crowns next winter to rejuvenate them. In the meantime, the flower stalk is on the compost heap.