GARDENING: Blackberrying with grandma inspired my gardening life – Brian Kidd

Blackberrying with grandma - a cherished childhood memory.
Blackberrying with grandma - a cherished childhood memory.
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When I was little my wonderful grandma would take me blackberrying. She had punnets for the berries and a walking stick to grab the wild fruits right at the top of the bushes. We spent hours doing it.

At home those berries were transformed into jelly. Grandma saved her ration book allocation of sugar to make this heavenly concoction.

The children are on holiday and it might be difficult to find interesting things for them to do. So here are a few suggestions which will possibly fill a few days and encourage them to take an interest in the garden.

I hope you will take them blackberrying. Have a think. where is the nearest place to walk with them? They will enjoy the experience and come back home tired but content.

That's day one. What else can they do?

All annual flowers need to have dead flowers removed every day. It’s a boring job which children may not enjoy, but what about saving the seeds?

An ordinary seed tray with newspaper in the base, with a few stones to stop the paper flying off in the wind and folded up the edge of the box will be ideal for containing the dead flowers and seed pods. You’ll need a different tray for each type of flower.

Children will soon find out that all types of poppy have capsules, the seeds fall out from a frill of holes in the top and you can actually hear them falling on to the newspaper.

Take a look at polyanthus, There are usually lots of seeds in pods still on the plants. The first lot of delphiniums have masses of seeds but tell the children they are poisonous and to wash hands after picking them. You’ll also find lovely ripening seeds on foxgloves, sweet Williams, aubretia, Peruvian lilies and lots more.

If children don’t know the names of the flowers, a trip to the library to find a book full of colour pictures will do the trick. 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 and 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, the type used for prize money at flower shows. 

Another lovely idea which our grandchildren love is, having discovered the names of the flowers, cutting out a colour picture from a seed catalogue and sticking it on the outside of the seed packet. It keeps them amused for hours. They then practice their best handwriting for the labelling!

If your children love growing plants from seed, buy a packet of sweet William seeds. Sow them outdoors directly into the soil with half-an-inch of soil on top. Water well and they will germinate in two weeks.

Enjoy the holidays with the children. Treasure every moment with them.

THIS WEEK’S TOP TIP

This is a good time to replant a strawberry bed, particularly if you have allowed strawberry plant runners to grow in little pots alongside the parent plants. If not, strawberry plants can be bought at garden centres.