One of the most popular sights at Gardening Scotland’s annual Ingliston show is the display of pallet gardens. Since Jim Dickson began coordinating these small beauties four years ago the number of groups entering has increased every year.
“I wanted the competition to be more inclusive,” he explained “so we now have three groups, so that school groups are not competing against enthusiastic and well resourced gardening clubs.”
For the schools themselves, it’s a fantastic opportunity to engage pupils in subjects which are practical and not just academic. Brian Miller pioneered a scheme 8 years ago which brought youngsters who weren’t thriving at school to Oatridge College, where they could learn landscaping, propagation, fencing and other subjects. It was so popular that a special SVQA programme was developed, now called Skills for Work, Rural Skills, for Secondary 3 and 4 pupils.
“There’s a bit of a carrot in that they have to attend school 3 days a week in order to be allowed to come to college the other 2, or however many days are allocated.”
From this success story, it all ‘just grew’. Schools like Broxburn Academy have taken part for several years but never achieved better than a silver gilt. This year, the group, Kyle Service, Shaun Main and Sean Gowland, made a fantastic effort which earned them their first gold medal as well as being voted 2nd best in the whole show.
Like their teacher, Cheryl Stirling they were “ecstatic, over the moon, so happy,” with their recognition.
The theme they chose was Bathing in Summer Glory. They started designing and building it around 2 months before the Show, growing plants and selling them at school to raise funds for the project, which was also sponsored by Oatridge College.
But the story doesn’t end there. When nearby Uphall Nursery School pupils came in one day to find their garden had been vandalised, Emma Flannigan Gavin Graham, Daniel Espie and Kyle Arthurs, from the Group 2 project, were ‘disgusted’. The generous pupils from Broxburn built a train for them as part of their container garden project.
They are not only learning maths and arithmetic through building their gardens, they are learning to respect and love plants.