RHS quest for young talent

Droitwich Advertiser: RHS quest for young talent RHS quest for young talent

A look at how the Royal Horticultural Society is trying to encourage children to take up gardening - plus, find out what else needs doing in the garden this week.

By Hannah Stephenson.

A host of events are planned for the first Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) National Gardening Week, an initiative to encourage people to get growing.

Between April 16-22, community plant and seed swaps, gardening advice clinics, workshops and garden parties are planned, along with input from gardening clubs, community groups and libraries.

There's also a big push for schools to become involved, with the RHS Show Cardiff (April 20-22) being the launch pad for the first Young School Gardener of the Year competition - a nationwide search to find the best young grower in the land.

Get Kids Growing Day, an annual competition aimed at gardeners up to the age of 16, will be launched on April 20 and is a key initiative for the campaign week.

Divided into four age groups and aimed at the RHS campaign for school gardening, a teacher nominates a child by completing an online form by May 18.

The RHS then chooses the four best entrants from each age group, who receive digital cameras to make videos demonstrating why they're such exemplary gardeners. They must submit the video by July 5.

A winner of each age group will receive gardening tools and £500 in garden gift vouchers for their schools.

The overall winner, crowned Young School Gardener of the Year 2012, will in addition spend a day at a RHS garden of their choice, working with a RHS gardener and receive family tickets to either RHS Tatton Park Flower Show or RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show 2013.

Jacky Chave, RHS strategic schools manager, says: "Gardening in schools is a fantastic way of engaging young people in learning. Thanks to our campaign more than half of all primary school pupils in the country are gardening.

"If through this competition we discover the next Monty Don, Alan Titchmarsh or Chris Collins, who in turn will inspire their friends and classmates to get into gardening, then how fantastic.

"Gardening needs new champions, young and old, and so what better place to start looking for them than in the school cabbage patch."

Through Young School Gardener of the Year, the RHS hopes to encourage more children across the UK to garden. As demonstrated by RHS research, gardening is important as it teaches children key life-skills, is good for their health and allows them to learn in a fun, practical way. There are currently 15,000 schools, nearly half of all UK schools, registered with the campaign.

If you're not into competitions but would like to encourage your child into the garden, Sarah-Jane Mason, RHS schools project officer, has the following tips: :: Before you start planting seeds, ensure the children they have some ownership of the project.

:: Allow them to choose and taste what plants they wish to grow before planting commences. Use images from seed catalogues or purchase examples of the crops for tastings.

:: Be realistic about the timescales involved in growing the chosen plants. Some children will expect an instant garden and their enthusiasm may be dashed if misled. Grow some fast crops in another area to keep their interest.

:: People wishing to get involved in National Gardening Week should register their interest at www.rhs.org.uk/nationalgardeningweek and dedicated website www.nationalgardeningweek.org.uk. They can also follow the RHS on Twitter or become a fan on the Facebook page.

Best of the bunch - Anemone These clumps of saucer-shaped, brightly coloured blooms look at home in any garden.

A popular variety is A. blanda, which grows to only 15cm (6in), producing a variety of different coloured flowers in spring.

Try A. b. 'Charmer' if you want a deep pink colour or A. b. 'White Splendour' for its large white flowers. A. ranunculoides is similar in habit but has bright yellow single or double flowers.

The flowers of A. apennina appear a little later and are ideal for growing in rockeries or as ground cover.

Much more impressive are the poppy-flowered anemones in white, blue, pink, purple or red, with 2in bowl-shaped flowers. Look for A. 'de Caen' for a really impressive display.

Anemone tubers should be planted in the autumn in full sun or partial shade in moist but well-drained, humus-rich soil.

Good enough to eat - Rosemary It's scrumptious rubbed into roast lamb with garlic, or even blitzed with other herbs and olive oil to coat roast potatoes and the fragrance of rosemary can fill a room.

Plant it up now in a sunny spot, forking in some grit if you have a clay soil because it needs good drainage and it should produce small, delicate light blue flowers in early summer.

Bear in mind that rosemary is from the Mediterranean so it is slightly tender, but usually thrives in a sheltered spot and can be grown as an evergreen hedge which is trimmed after flowering, although it's most commonly found in herb gardens or in pots against a warm wall.

Cut off sprigs as you need them from spring to early summer. The most common variety for cooking is Rosmarinus officinalis, which grows more than 3ft if not kept in check, producing tiny pale blue flowers.

If you are fussy on colour, 'Majorca Pink' is compact with pink flowers, while 'Miss Jessop's Upright' is more upright, making a focal point in the herb bed.

Three ways to... brighten up a summer pot 1. Add coloured mulches to the pot while it still looks bare before the plants fill out and start to flower. They also help retain moisture.

2. Paint your pot. Give your old terracotta pot a good clean with water, let it dry and then give it a coat of emulsion or masonry paint. If your pots are plastic, use an oil-based paint. Bold colours look best in a sunny spot, pastels lift a shady corner. And try to find something to tie in with your plants and garden furniture.

3. Underplant large, foliage plants such as cannas with smaller flowering species such as dahliettas and gazanias.

What to do this week :: Protect young vegetable plants with netting if you have a problem with birds.

:: Start to harden off bedding plants in a garden frame.

:: Transplant evergreens that need moving.

:: Sow Brussels sprouts, parsnips, radishes, spinach, Swiss chard and turnips outdoors.

:: Sow half-hardy and tender annuals in the greenhouse for summer bedding.

:: Start to mow the lawn weekly or more often if necessary.

:: Plant summer-flowering bulbs such as acidanthera and tigridia.

:: Weed patios, paths and drives.

:: Apply rose fertiliser, gently hoeing it in around the plants.

:: Ventilate cold frames and the greenhouse whenever possible to encourage sturdy plant growth.

:: Feed newly planted hedges.

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