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inspiring gardening projects for children


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This is Modern Art

lawn modern art

In the late 90s there was a television series on Channel 4 called “This is Modern Art”.  I must have quite liked it because I bought the book accompanying the series (although I can’t remember ever reading it and it still looks pristine on the bookshelf all these years later).

But some of the series must have infiltrated my subconscious.  Because today, when I was constructing a bird-proof cover for some grass seed, I found myself getting a bit carried away and I’ve ended up with my own piece of modern art.

The bottom of our garden is flanked by mature trees and, as a result, a patch of lawn that rarely sees the sun has died.  So I reseeded (50% shady lawn seed, 50% hard wearing utility lawn seed in case you’re wondering) and spent the next few days watching the pigeons feasting on my efforts.

Armed with a few bamboo sticks and a ball of string I have constructed the only thing in the garden ever to have been described as “awesome” by my children.  As I write, it’s being used as an obstacle course and I’ve been asked if it can stay in the garden permanently (I fear it won’t last the evening at this rate).  So forget climbing frames, swingball, rope swings, trampolines and wendy houses; all you need to do is get yourself down to Tate Modern for a bit of inspiration.

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No children please, we’re British

As well as being a terribly British affair, the Chelsea Flower is no place for children.  Children under 5 are banned and it’s usually so crowded that you wouldn’t wish to risk having your over 5s squashed.  But there’s still plenty of inspiration at Chelsea for child-friendly family gardens.

insect house chelsea flower show 2013

This enormous insect house was constructed on the end of a shed – a great project for an ambitious school gardening club?

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Dogs, ducks and elephants in Ealing

Ealing 135 Spring Fair Mini Gardeners stallHave finally done it.  After two years of procrastinating about selling gardening stuff for children, I dipped a toe in the water and had a stall at the Ealing 135 Group Spring Fair yesterday.  Spent the afternoon chatting to people about gardening (what’s not to love?) and lots of dog, duck and elephant watering cans have found happy homes in sunny Ealing.  It’s a big learning curve and my head is buzzing with ideas for how to do it so much better next time.  But right now I need to turn my attention to the fact that our house looks like a war zone and nobody has any clean clothes to wear because I’ve done nothing else for the past week.


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Chocolate Brownies and Exploding Flowers

gorse flowers

We managed a 4 mile walk avec les enfants today, with minimal moaning.

How did we achieve this amazing feat?

With the distractive powers of chocolate brownies (works every time) and exploding flowers.

The Devon countryside is awash with brilliant yellow gorse flowers at the moment. And we discovered that if you press gently on the lower petals with your finger, mimicking a bumble bee landing, the flower springs open permanently, exposing the reproductive parts.  If you’re lucky, you might get a spray of pollen into the bargain.  Strangely addictive, distracting and educational all at the same time.

Common gorse (Ulex europaeus) is a member of the pea family and has flowers that are not dissimilar to sweet peas.  The photograph below shows a gorse flower that is ready for ‘exploding’.

gorse flower

And this is the result:

gorse flower

The whispy bits revealed in the centre of the flower are the anthers (containing pollen), each held aloft a long stalk called the filament, which are collectively the ‘male’ parts of the flower (the stamen). Some of the flowers will throw out  a spray of pollen when opened, whoo hoo!  We did have the great idea of trying to capture the pollen spray on camera but had to adbandon this due to the risk of frostbite on our hands with the bitterly cold spring wind (sorry).

If you’re keen to explore the world of flower anatomy further, try this link.  Not the prettiest internet page ever but it has a simple, clear illustration with a good, concise description.


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Temporary Amnesia, the Rural Dream and Rurbanites

A few days in Devon and we’re suffering from temporary amnesia. We’ve forgotten that we live in the suburban sprawl that is west London and in our minds we’re totally living the rural dream.

Our thatched cottage is situated along a quaint country lane flanked by trees, with generous bunches of daffodils lining the verges. We’re keeping chickens which are free to roam and we’re dining on freshly laid eggs every day. We have a huge garden and the possibilities are endless. We even have a goat or two for good measure. And the sun always shines in our rural dream.

Oh, but hang on a minute. Could we live without a 24-hour Tesco just round the corner for those days when we’re a teeny bit disorganised? And we do quite like being a 20 minute tube journey from the centre of London for when we’re in the mood for a bit of culture or retail therapy. And to be frank, the countryside can sometimes be a little bit smelly.

But the good news is that it’s not temporary amnesia we’re suffering from. Oh no. There is a name for our condition and we’re not alone. We are officially rurbanites:

Rurbanite. n.  Someone with a passion for the countryside but a reluctance to leave the city anytime soon.

Safe in this knowledge we can indulge the rural dream for a few more days before returning home to the metropolis.