John Muir’s Legacy
Banchory Academy’s entry for the Pocket Garden 2023 is celebrating the life of John Muir and is inspired by the Yosemite National Park that he helped to create in 1890. John Muir was born in Dunbar, Scotland and is the founder of the modern conservation movement. We are passionate about nature and working and learning outdoors, so this is a tribute to the wonderful work John Muir started. We also have pupils working towards the various levels of the John Muir Award, so his legacy is an important focus for outdoor work.
Enjoying the outdoors
Hot air balloon
Within our garden you will find a variety of wildflowers and plants, such as thistles, heathers, wildflowers, honeysuckle, and ferns as well as a variety of herbs and alpine plants. Our garden is also home to our edible plants; potatoes, broad beans, mangetout, red veined sorrel, radishes, strawberries, thyme, sage, chives, lemonbalm, mustard, and greens such as cress to provide a blanket for our Yosemite pastures. We grew our broadbeans, mangetout, mustard, radishes and wildflowers from seed and propagated our willow and strawberries. We purchased our small plants from a local garden centre, and our pupils met with someone there to select and discuss which plants would be most suitable. Our mangetout seeds were harvested from last year's crop and the other seeds were donated by interested members of the community. We have had support from members of the local rotary club, who came in and supported some of our pupils to construct our self-watering strawberry post.
We have used walking boots as planting pots to remind us of the 1000-mile journey that John Muir walked. We used some of his famous quotes to signpost our garden. We have included mushroom logs, some naturally growing on decomposing wood and some silver birch which we have inserted shitake mushroom plugs into.
Our drainpipe water feature, fed by our recycled tip-tap, is a nod to Yosemite Falls. It cascades down over keystone rock and into our small water container pond.
Our garden is a haven for insects, it includes an insect hotel, a solitary bee log slice and a bird box, all handmade by pupils, who have been learning about the ‘bee pastures’ John Muir wrote about. We are particularly proud of our bespoke hedgehog house. Our garden is full of recycled items, we have reclaimed wood from pallets and foraged for wood to make our bee house and to whittle our mushrooms and John Muir figure. It is planted with permaculture in mind, combining flowers and edible plants to maximise pollination. The garden is organic, we have used our own compost and our homemade worm tea fertilizer to encourage growth. Our recycled wheelbarrow, boots, bottles, food waste planter and old wood stumps remind us of the importance of repurposing items.
For interest, and to add to the story of John Muir a wire eagle flies high above the Yosemite mountains, soaring over its nest up high. Also floating high in the sky is a paper hot air balloon inspired by one of John Muir’s quotes. Bunting showing the air, wind and water symbols compliments our theme.
We have learned how to grow plants from seed and propagate smaller plants to add to our numbers. We have learned how to use tools required to work successfully with wood. We have worked from a plan and made amendments as and when required, using problem solving skills if things did not go to plan. Pupils have worked together to plant in a small area and show an understanding of how plants can be used to tell a story. We have found out about the importance of recycling and that anything can be used to create an interesting planting space. Pupils have learned why it is important to encourage wildlife into our gardens and how they can do this. It has been a team effort, everyone drawing on their abilities and helping each other to create this wonderful pocket garden.
We will enjoy this garden for many months, inviting visitors and the local community to share it with us. Our end of school term tea party will provide the opportunity to share the garden with the wider school community. After which, we will be planting out these plants in our school wildlife area, to add colour and variety to our rockery around our wildlife pond. The hedgehog house will hopefully become home to the rescue hedgehogs we have applied to rehome, and our insect hotel, bird box and bee slice will be joining our other wildlife homes in our garden. We will be celebrating our pocket garden on our Instagram page, and it will continue to help us teach about the wonderful work of John Muir.
Creating the garden – from design to reality
Full garden tour
Drainpipe water feature