Revisiting Chelsea in this centenary year is a real treat for me. It is fitting that they are launching an appeal fund to bring horticulture to young audiences – about time! As I have often felt that the perfectly manicured show gardens rarely include features that are designed to inspire or include children.
When I was girl I helped my father in our London garden, it was amazing how he managed to squeeze in a little bit of everything. We had a lawn that spanned half the area with flower borders on all sides; behind this we had small fruit trees of apple, pear and cherry, and a vegetable patch that included strawberries, peppers and tomatoes. At the very back, we had an aviary where he kept partridges and pheasants.
My father took delight in tending his roses, particularly the fragrant pink and yellow bushes, the rambling crimson climbers, and the unusual ‘blue moon’. My favourite flowers were the delicate wispy Nigella ‘Persian Jewels’ and the bright silky smooth Californian poppies which opened at sunrise and closed at sunset. There were caterpillars munching on foliage in the borders that later turned into Small Tortoiseshell butterflies. But for me as a child, the best part was picking and eating the ripe fruits and vegetables- they always tasted special! It was such a pleasure being in this outdoor space, and these early experiences fed my lifelong interest in nature and conservation.
At this year’s show I was delighted to learn that the company ‘Miracle-Gro’ supported a project that engaged 14,000 schoolchildren in four regions of the country to grow plants for Chelsea. The aim was to reflect changing trends in gardening in Britain over the past 100 years. The result was four themed gardens based on 1913, 1940s, 1970s and 2013.
Some of the schoolchildren from all four projects were on hand to talk about their gardening experiences.
Schoolchildren from Devon worked on the 1913 Domestic Garden which highlighted the Edwardian fashion for formal layouts. Additional visual links included the suffragettes, house architecture and garden furniture.
The 1940’s Wartime Garden (pictured at the top), focussed on the ‘Dig for Victory’ campaign which encouraged growing food during World War II. One of the children told me ‘Our class has grown potatoes, beans and carrots, and we’ve really enjoyed the activity.’
The 1970’s Flower Power Garden was all about outdoor living. Children from a Greenwich school designed hanging baskets for geraniums made from disco glitterballs, grew plants in guitars, and there were potatoes growing in space hoppers! One of the students said, ‘We learned so much about planting in containers at our school Garden Club. It was really good fun.’
Above: The 2013 Eco Garden is all about planting disease and pest resistant varieties of plants.
This year the NSPCC chose the theme of outdoor play for their Garden of Magical Childhood, it came complete with a tree house, conkers, fairies, toadstools and vintage toys. This was a wonderfully inviting space with clever planting of native species.
Certainly this centenary year at RHS Chelsea I have seen many more initiatives and activities to inspire children and young people – exactly what is needed to secure a future generation of gardening enthusiasts and professionals.
And finally, there was just enough time to buy some seed packets of Nigella ‘Persian Jewels’ and California Poppies from ‘Mr Fothergill’ to take home to my kids. I hope they enjoy them as much as I did.
Written by Sonia Zubri
To celebrate the RHS Chelsea centenary, Mr Fothergill’s have given us some seeds to give away to 5 readers. For your chance to win some Nigella, Californian Poppy and vegetable seeds, just tell us what you are growing with your children in the garden or window box by leaving a comment below.
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