Bloomin’ Clever, Chicken Music, Drop In, Not Out & National Parks, National Treasures

Taken from Lynne’s weekly column ‘Green Scene’ for the Western Mail. 22nd July 2017

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Bloomin’ Clever

Crikey, some things to come around quick these days, and judging Blaenau Gwent in Bloom is one of them. I have spent a lovely few days this week visiting school grounds, allotments and gardens, giving a bit of advice and getting some great ideas!

This year I was mightily impressed by the pupils at Deighton Primary School who have turned ordinary round fencing stakes into brightly coloured pencils (see photo). They would make a great alternative fence or gate, even.

It is my eighth year as a judge and I never cease to be impressed by the hard work that goes into creating beautiful gardens and displays and often in the most difficult of places. This year it has been the lack of rain and the wind that has caused the most challenges. Over the years, sometimes it’s been heavy rain and sometimes even late frosts but one thing is guaranteed – there will always be challenges!

And my favourite snippet from the pupils at one primary school is still, one little boy telling me that he grew potatoes because he likes chips, a little girl adding that she grew tomatoes because she likes tomato sauce and another little lad chipping in cheekily, “I wanted to grow a sausage tree but we couldn’t find any sausage seeds.”

A huge well done to everyone who entered this year, it has been as difficult but as delightful as ever to judge.

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Chicken Music

I am always looking for ways to keep my hens occupied and entertained – happy hens are healthy hens and happy healthy hens lay lots of eggs! To date I have threaded cabbages and lettuces onto string for them to peck – it’s a bit like Swingball without the bats, for those of you who remember that! I have also got an old wire shopping basket, which I fill with weeds and grass clippings, which they like, and a friend has suggested that I string a few corn on the cob together for them like a swag.

But the most entertaining thing I have found – for them and me – is a child’s metal xylophone. I sprinkle a few layers pellets along it and as the chickens peck them off they naturally ‘play’ the xylophone. Think ‘Hen-del’s Water Music. It’s really lovely; I highly recommend it.

And did you now that spirulina is a wonderful tonic for hens? It has been proven to often cure unidentifiable ailments and is a great pick-me-up. I often put an additional bowl of water with spirulina added to it, in their pen and it definitely helps to keep them happy and healthy.

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Drop In, Not Out

I was shocked by the recent findings of a survey carried out by the RHS. It claimed to show that young people consider horticulture to be ‘for drop outs; unskilled and unfulfilling.” That’s definitely not the impression that I got from judging the schools in Blaenau Gwent this week, or from talking to pupils at the various schools that I speak at.

I actually think that horticulture is one of those careers that drop outs drop out of quite quickly! How many drop outs do you know are up early in the morning, often work late evenings, weekends and are out in all weathers?

And on that note, huge congratulations to the pupils of Blaenavon Heritage V.C. Primary School. They recently took part in the Pontypool Schools Market Project to find a product to develop and sell, whilst learning about business and communication plans. They managed to turn a £50 investment made by RWA Group in Blaenavon into a whopping £571 by selling wildflower seeds. I don’t know who the RHS interviewed for their survey, but I suspect they weren’t Welsh!

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National Parks, National Treasures

Next week is National Parks Week (Monday 24th July to Sunday 30th) and is the National Parks family’s annual celebration of everything that is unique and wonderful about the UK’s 15 National Parks – or Britain’s breathing spaces, as they are referred to.

Together, the three Welsh National Parks – Snowdonia, Pembrokeshire Coast and Brecon Beacons – protect an impressive 20 percent of Wales, including precious landscapes, habitats, villages and heritage sites and are just absolutely stunning areas; we are so lucky.

More details about National Parks Week and the various events can be found at www.nationalparks.gov.uk/visiting/national-parks-week and you can share your relevant photos on Twitter and Facebook.

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