From the 14th to 20th April 2014 people across the UK will be donning their wellies and raiding their sheds to show off their green-fingered skills. National Gardening Week was launched three years ago by the Royal Horticultural Society and has quickly flourished into the biggest gardening celebration across the country.
Essex Cares has a wide variety of gardening opportunities across the county, offering adults with a learning disability the chance to gain work-based skills and training in horticulture. We caught up with Gordon, in-house Gardener at Barley Twist Garden Services within Ashleigh Wellbeing & Activity Centre, Basildon, to find out more about their plans for National Gardening Week.
Since joining Essex Cares in April 2013, Gordon and the Barley Twist team of trainees have transformed the gardens at the Ashleigh Wellbeing & Activity Centre into a tranquil space for staff and customers to relax and enjoy. With the helping hands of the Barley Twist trainees, the garden not only offers beautiful aesthetics but a nurtured allotment that provides seasonal produce.
Gordon explained: “We have gone for a completely new look in the garden. We have redesigned the planters, introduced raised flower beds and we’ve really thought about the type of plants we could use so all customers, including those with sensory needs, can enjoy the garden.”
Throughout the last year Gordon has encouraged the training unit to expand their gardening services to the general public by organising several plant sales and developing external gardening contracts. Each trainee has also been granted with a lifetime membership to the Canvey Island Horticultural Society.
Gordon continued: “I have been a member for many years and I think to get the customers involved in the society allows them to be even more involved with their new found interests and skills.”
Later in the year, Gordon and the trainees will be showcasing the flowers and vegetables that have been grown at the centre in the Canvey Island Horticultural Society Autumn show.
“This is very exciting for the trainees and gives them a target to work towards. It’s very satisfying for them to see the end product of their hard work.”
Throughout National Gardening Week Gordon will be conducting gardening sessions with different groups of customers who attend Ashleigh Wellbeing & Activity Centre; both older adults and those with learning disabilities. Each session will be tailored to the needs of the group so each individual can get the most out of taking part.
Gordon said: “I have planned each session according to the group’s needs, so for example the elderly customers will be planting in the wall flowerbeds so they can stay seated and our sensory group will have plants and flowers that are heavily scented and textured.”
“Gardening is a great way to get people involved as a team and as an individual. Gardening Week is a brilliant opportunity to make sure all of our customers at Ashleigh and our trainees at Barley Twist Gardening Services have an opportunity to get stuck in and to really appreciate the joys gardening can bring.”