When I was a boy my wonderful grandma would take me blackberrying. She had punnets for the berries and a walking stick with which to grab the lovely wild fruits right at the top of the countryside bushes.
At home the blackberries were transformed into jelly. Grandma saved her ration book allocation of sugar to make this heavenly preserve.
With the children on holiday it might be difficult to find interesting things to do with them, so here are some suggestions which will possibly fill a few days and encourage them to take an interest in the garden. Hopefully.
All annuals need to have the dead flowers removed every day. It’s a boring job which children may not enjoy, but what about saving the seeds?
All you need is a seed tray with newspaper in the base weighted down with a few stones to stop the paper flying away in the wind. Fold it over the edge of the tray and you have an ideal receptacle for holding the dead flowers and seed pods. A different tray will be needed for each type of flower.
Children will soon find out that all types of poppy have capsules and seeds fall out from a frill of holes in the top. You can actually hear the seeds fall on to the newspaper.
Have a look at polyanthus. There are usually lots of seeds in pods still on the plants. The first flush of delphiniums has masses of seeds, but remind children they are poisonous and to wash their hands after picking them.
Lovely ripening seeds can also be seen on foxgloves, sweet William, aubretia, Peruvian lilies and lots more when you really look around.
If the seed pods are green and plump, leave the tray in a sunny window and they will ripen, after which the seeds can be taken out.
If children don’t know the names of flowers visit the library to find a book of colour pictures. The identification can be done on wet days.
Another wet-day job is shaking the seeds out of the pods. I recall doing this when I was an apprentice gardener, in particular the wonderful begonia semperflorens seed we used to save, clean, sieve and pack. It was done to perfection and the director of parks was complimented on the high quality by a famous seed house.
Presentation and labelling is important. Cheap, small envelopes are easy to find. Those used for prize money at flower shows are cheap, but these days there is an array of all sorts of pretty envelopes which will add to the pleasure of seed collecting.
Another lovely idea which our grandchildren love is to discover the names of the flowers, then cut out a colour picture from a seed catalogue and stick it to the outside of the seed packet. It keeps them amused for hours. The children then practice their best handwriting on the labels.
If your children love growing plants from seed, buy a packet of sweet William and sow them outdoors directly into the soil with just half-an-inch of soil over them. Water well and they will germinate in a fortnight.
Enjoy the holidays with the children. Treasure every moment with them.
TIP OF THE WEEK
Good quality prepared hyacinth bulbs have arrived at the garden centres.
These can be brought into flower for Christmas.
Make a start. Buy some clay bulb pots about five to six inches across, they are deeper than bulb bowls and your hyacinths won’t keep falling out of the containers.