Gardening still a talent worth growing

Denny High School will be among the exhibitors at the annnual Gardening Scotland event at The Royal Highland Centre in Edinburgh next week
Denny High School will be among the exhibitors at the annnual Gardening Scotland event at The Royal Highland Centre in Edinburgh next week

Take a walk along the average suburban street and you’ll see the evidence that the UK’s love affair with gardening appears to be withering.

Unruly lawns and weed-strewn flower beds are a common sight in the few remaining domestic green spaces that have not yet been paved over to make way for another parking space.

It’s a shame when you consider the word paradise is taken from the old Persian term for enclosed garden.

A recent survey of 2000 adults revealed that a third claimed to have very little or no knowledge of how to plant and maintain flowers or vegetables.

And just one in twenty people under the age of 50 rated their horticultural skills as excellent.

You could be forgiven for thinking that when it comes to the age-old arts of pruning, mowing and 
planting, a serious generational gap has opened up.

Yet that would ignore the stellar work that many schools across the Falkirk district have been doing to encourage their pupils to take an interest in all things green.

Several primaries have planted orchards in their grounds, and many more have been awarded Green Flags in recognition of their environmental projects.

The question is whether the pupils’ interest in gardening can continue to grow when they move to high school, when free time can suddenly become scarce as exams take priority.

At Denny High, pupils are not just taking an interest in planting - they are entering national competitions.

They will be among the competitors at the 2013 Gardening Scotland exhibition at The Royal Highland Centre in Edinburgh.

The event is Scotland’s national outdoor living show and the biggest plant fair in the country, attracting leading nurseries from across the UK.

A class of second year pupils is entering the Pallet Garden Challenge, in which they are tasked with creating a garden from scratch.

There’s a catch however - it must measure just one square metre.

One of the main aims of the Pallet Garden competition is to encourage and foster future generations of young gardeners as well as make the weekend a fun and memorable experience for all involved.

Rising to the challenge, Denny High has been busy developing a theme, drawing up plans and raising plants in time for when they have to travel east to the event on Thursday, May 30.

They’ll be putting their skills to the test in a verypublic setting - the pallet gardens are always one of the most popular exhibits among the 40,000 people who attend the annual show.

The Falkirk Herald visited the school this week to find out how the project was progressing and to see what other paradises the pupils are planning at their Herbertshire base.

Rebecca McLean (13), one of the team competing at Gardening Scotland, spoke with enthusiasm about the project, but admitted it wasn’t a feeling shared by all.

“Gardening is something that some people can find boring,” she said.

Asked why that was, she replied: “You need to be quite patient. You need to wait before you get to see the end result.”

The theme of Denny’s entry in the pallet garden competition is social media, and specifically Twitter.

It will include blue birdhouses, inspired by the ‘bluebird’ logo of the phenomen-ally successful microblogging website.

It’s a modern theme for what is intended as a futuristic garden, and proof that the pastime doesn’t need to be considered stuffy.

Denny was encouraged to enter Gardening Scotland by the Wider Access to Schools Project (WASP), the adult learning centre based at the school.

Dionne Shaw, a lecturer at Forth Valley College, has been helping the pupils create their garden and seen their enthusiasm for the project first hand.

“There’s no doubt that gardening skills are good to have. There’s no need for it to be viewed as a boring subject.

“At primary school level, there’s huge interest, but they have more free time. That tails off when the kids come up to high school.”

Stephanie McGuckin (13), a member of the school’s eco committee, said she had always had an interest in gardening as her mum has a greenhouse at home.

She added: “I think it’s a fun thing to do.”

That opinion was echoed by Megan MacFarlane (13), who said she also enjoyed gardening at home.

Stephanie, Megan and their colleagues are also helping to build an eco garden on the school’s roof terrace.

Containers have already been planted with strawberries, cabbage and potatoes.

More than £200 worth of gardening equipment for the project was donated by the Cumbernauld branch of Dobbie’s.

Fiona MacFarlane, head of art at Denny High and leader of the school’s eco activities, said that it would open up a previously under-used part of the school.

“When it’s finished, the garden will be something that can be enjoyed by all pupils,” she said.

“It will make an ideal place for art classes to sketch and biology classes to learn about plants.”

Teacher Karen Macready said: “We don’t know what we’ll do with the vegetables once they’re grown, but I’m sure our home economics department will be grateful for them.”

When the school term ends in July, it is planned that the school’s garden will be looked after by members of the WASP.

In Denny at least, it seems that gardening really does have a blooming great future.

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