St. Andrew's Primary School
‘Happbee Birthday Garden’ – a Birthday Celebration Garden
We were very excited to hear about the Pocket Garden competition. When P3 learned the criteria for the competition it was clear that ‘Birthdays’ are everyone’s favourite celebration and the only choice for our theme. Everyone in the class enthusiastically researched gardening ideas and came up with their own individual garden design. We laid out all of the plans and the children looked for similarities and fabulous ideas from each other’s plans. Together we blended the ideas to come up with our final garden design. We wanted to set the garden out as a ‘party tea’ with cake, ice cream and cups. Everyone agreed that there should be bunting and that we had to make wooden spoon versions of ourselves so that we could all fit into the pocket party area. The children wanted their birthday celebration garden to be welcoming to all wildlife and therefore wanted to make as many areas as possible attractive to insects and bugs. As well as designing bug hotels under and on their garden, they were also keen to make a play area for the creatures too.
Pupils were vocal about what they wanted to plant in the garden, they knew the names of the fruit, veg and herbs that they wanted to plant but needed some help finding the names of the flowers that would attract the pollinators. When they knew what they wanted to plant they made posters and Tweeted for seed and plant donations. We very quickly received many packets of seeds and offers of plant donations. A local garden centre also donated some small flowers to us. We created the hashtag #ecostandrews so that it would be easy to follow our Green Flag, LEAF and Pocket Garden journeys.
As soon as we returned to school after our February half term holiday we started planting seeds (so did all the other classes in our school) and shortly after we had an array of seedlings to look after. The whole school was talking about the ‘Rain Forest’ that was steadily growing in our communal area and several other classes (particularly P4) played a vital role in the watering and nurturing of the seedlings.
We contacted a local roofing company which was giving away wooden pallets and they were able to deliver ten to our school for all of our classes to share. Miss Prior’s dad kindly came to school and put the pallets together for us in a suitable arrangement. Mrs Valentine’s son was on exam leave and he came to school and painted the pallets for us. Plant pots and planters were found at the recycling station and also donated by our St. Andrew’s School community. Our fabulous dinner ladies saved all the enormous tins from the school kitchen for us to recycle and turn into planters. We also made an appeal for bricks, roof tiles and old pipes and a local building company kindly offered us everything that we needed.
By the time the Easter holidays came along we had our pallets set up, lots of donations, pots and planters and couldn’t wait to get going. Our only problem was what to do with all our seedlings? We knew that they would not survive if we left them unsupervised in school. Luckily we had a contact in ‘The School of Biological Sciences’ at the University of Edinburgh who offered to babysit our plants for us during the holidays. Our seedlings enjoyed the luxury of the greenhouses and were returned to us bigger and stronger than before. We were also donated some leeks, rhubarb, strawberries and a tree.
It was lovely to establish this connection with the University and Dr Haupt has since made 2 visits to the school to tell us about plant germination and how to successfully transplant seedlings. She was also able to give us advice on mistakes we made in the planting process and has offered to be part of the initial planting process when we plant next year. Pupils have learned so much from this connection (and the adults have too). We look forward to maintain this connection in the future.
We continued to nurture the plants inside until we felt that the weather was warming up outside and that it would be safe to take our plants outdoors. While we were waiting for the weather to heat up, every P3 child painted their own birthday stone and decorated a recycled cup to be used as a planter. In the process of making our ‘Bee Bath’ it was suggested that we should decorate the stones as little bumble bees. This encouraged many conversations about the importance of bees and very quickly it was decided that our garden should be a ’Happbee Birthday Garden’ and not just a Birthday Garden. The design of our garden then evolved slightly to incorporate more bee themed items into our party theme. Mrs Valentine knitted some bumble bees to buzz around the garden.
Since the middle of May P3 have enjoyed spending time outdoors watering and shaping our ‘Happbee Birthday’ Celebration Pocket Garden. Bug Hotels have been built using natural materials collected from the local woods and around our school grounds. The plants were added gradually and then all of the finishing touches were placed. The whole process has been a fantastic learning opportunity for pupils and teachers alike. Everyone has felt happy to be working in the outdoors and a beautiful buzz of excitement has been created throughout the school. Every morning when the school gates open the children literally run to the area where the gardens have been constructed to talk about the small changes that they see and to check if we have any new visitors in the bug hotels. They look out for one another’s gardens are have used their initiative to water if they feel that something looks in need of a drink. It is wonderful to see the care and respect that they are showing for living things.
In our finished design we have lots of yummy things to eat including pumpkins, tomatoes, runner beans, rhubarb, chives, basil, beetroot and strawberries. We also have cornflowers, sunflowers, wild seed mix, nasturtium, lobelia, sweet peas, pansies, bee balm and marigolds all waiting to bloom for the bumblebees and butterflies to enjoy. We have pulled together a treasure box of items to use to help us look at and identify the different species that visit our party celebration garden. We are looking forward to harvesting our garden and sampling our home grown fruits and veggies. We will continue to look after the garden after the competition ends and look forward to seeing how everything will have grown during the summer holidays. In October, we hope to carve our home grown pumpkins.
Both our local library and community hub are allow us to put on a photo exhibition of our ‘Pocket Garden Journey’. We are preparing this at the moment and it will be ready and on display in June. It will be lovely to share our experience with more people in our community (as not everyone is on Twitter). We hope to be an inspiration to other and encourage them to do some planting for wildlife. Our little gardens will hopefully show others that you don’t need a big space to make a difference.
As our Garden was coming together pupils were always happy to discover an extra stick or pinecone to be added to the ‘Bug Hotel’ that they built in the space under the pallets. They also added bark and lichen.
Our colourful birthday stones make an eye-catching feature around the bottom of our celebration garden. Every pupil painted a stone with their birthdate on it. You can also see our mini pond in an early stage of its development.
Some of our pots are also placed on top of small homemade bug hotels.
Our ‘runner beans’ grew strong and tall. In this picture you can see the recycled tin planters that our dinner ladies helped us to collect. We tied ribbons around them to make them look like birthday gifts. In the background you can see the three plant pots that we glued together to look like a giant tiered sponge cake. We have planted strawberries in the top tier so that we can say we were able to eat our ‘birthday cake’. A cake is not complete without a candle so we added one to the top of ours for decoration. We hope that many thirsty bumble bees and butterflies will come for a rest and a drink from our bee themed Bee Bath.
P3 were keen to keep the party feeling in their garden and asked if they could have bubbles so that they can enjoy some party fun when they are playing near their garden.
We used old wood and even recycled nails to create shelving on the back side of our garden. We used these shelves to house our ‘party drinks’ (our herbs planted in recycled fizzy drinks cans).
We initially decided to use a table for our ‘birthday cake planter’ to sit on, but when we were offered the use of this old tree stump we felt that it would be much more appealing to the insects that we hope to attract. We found it hard to obtain the paint pots we had planned to use for our cake and decided to use some of the many donated plant pots instead.
Our garden has many recycled elements, the basin for the pond and tea cups were donated as new but everything else is recycled, up cycled and has been used before. We are delighted to have been able to use so many recycled items because our whole school is working hard to recycle more and we hope our garden is a perfect example to show the benefits of reusing and repurposing old things.
P3 think that their ‘Happbee Birthday Garden is the bees knees!
Creating the garden – from design to reality
All the St. Andrews Primary Pocket Gardens
St. Andrews Primary went Pocket Garden crazy this year. Here are the other three gardens they grew.