Post by Claire Reed, Head Gardener at Hestercombe
I’m sure that like many of us you have all found it very difficult watching the plight of thousands of refugees fleeing their homes to escape such awful conditions. After talking with friends, we all agreed that we wanted to actually ‘do’ something physical to help. So, recently, I have been involved in setting up a local project called ‘Grow for Syria’.
The project aims to raise money and awareness for Help Refugees UK and support the amazing work that they carry out. We looked at our skill base (we are mainly all gardeners) and our friendship groups to see what we could achieve and how we could raise funds. A project called Cook for Syria had really inspired me. The organisers had collaborated with chefs and refugees to create a cook book of Syrian-based recipes. I loved the fact that the book was producing something positive and sharing cultures. The book has been a sell out. I think that reaching out through food and gardening, basic everyday pleasures that bring people together, to build communities really works. And so Grow for Syria was born.
So what are we up to?
I have been raising money by offering to act as a garden adviser at individuals’ gardens (within a reasonable distance). I will spend an hour in the garden with them, discussing design ideas, plant ideas and general advice.
I have also been in touch with seed companies. Seed packets have a sell-by date after which they can’t be sold as viability and the percentage of germination rate cannot be guaranteed. Often the seed will still germinate but, due to seed law, the company has to guarantee a certain rate. Several companies were happy to give me their seeds. These packets have been handed on to various individuals and groups. The idea is that they will sow and grow the seeds and then either arrange their own plant sales to sell on the plants, or pass the plants back to me to sell on.
Local gardening clubs have also been involved. They are supplying any leftover packets of seeds, extra pots of seedlings that they don’t need (we’ve all done it – sown the whole packet of courgettes just in case they don’t all germinate… and then they do and you’re left wondering if you can fit 32 courgette plants in your garden!). Any plants that are being divided, dug out and propagated can all be sold in a plant sale for Help Refugees UK.
It’s exciting. I’ve met some amazing people through the project, many of whom feel the same as me and just wanted to physically do something to help. We have already had a seed swap and sale in Wiveliscombe as a fundraiser and we have a few events coming up.
Dates for your diary:
When: 28th May 2017
Where: Stoke St Mary
What: Stoke St Mary Soap Box Derby – not only is this a great family event, there are lots of stalls including one where I will be selling plants for Grow for Syria. For a donation you can ask me a question about your garden too!
When: 18th June 2017
Where: JWBlooms flower field at Hillcommon.
What: JWBlooms is run by Jan who grows organic cut flowers mainly for weddings and occasions. From the 9th April the field is open to public every Sunday for tea, coffee and cakes, and a stroll around the flowers. It’s a beautiful setting and I highly recommend it. Jan will have a permanent stand of plants you can buy to support Grow for Syria but on the 18th June we are arranging a special Gardeners Question Time type event where a panel of experts will be on hand to answer your questions. Confirmed panel members includes myself, Damien Mitchell (head gardener at Lytes Cary), Sarah Venn (Edible Bristol), Ahsley Wheeler (veg grower at Trill Farm) and Danny Burlingham (head gardener at Forde Abbey).
For more info please go to the JWBlooms website www.jwblooms.co.uk/
Currently you can follow Grow for Syria on Instagram
Otherwise if you want to help please get in touch
PHOTO: Claire Reed at Hestercombe by Chris Lacey Photography courtesy Hestercombe Gardens.