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Blooming marvellous; MARIAN FOSTER, presenter of BBC Radio Newcastle's 'Garden Mania' show, is taking part in the Royal Horticultural Society's Green Plan It Challenge, a garden design competition for secondary school children across the North East.


MARIAN is currently mentoring a team of pupils at Royal Grammar School (she also mentored Monkseaton Middle School in the competition last year) and all the schools taking part presented their designs for judging yesterday on Tuesday at Kirkley Hall Campus, Northumberland College. She writes...

I've been involved with two schools since the Green Plan It project started last year in the North East region.

I remember the excitement when we first met all the schools taking part at the launch at Northumberland College's Kirkley Hall campus and I was introduced to the lively group from Monkseaton Middle School in North Tyneside who called themselves the 'Planet Pals'.

The event inspired pupils from all the schools. It introduced them to the joys of gardening, the fun of exploring different plants, their colours, textures, shapes, scents and importance.

The success of the project started there, giving children from schools across Northumberland and Durham, Tyneside and Wearside a sense of belonging to something special and exciting. They left energised, full of enthusiasm and ideas.

Many of the children came from schools without a strong gardening tradition.

The school I was mentoring relied on the maths teacher to look after the children's gardening activities after school.

Most schools in the project do gardening as an after-school or lunchtime activity which has added problems for northern schools in the winter term when it begins to get dark soon after 3pm. The decision to make the Green Plan It a design award, with most of the work indoors, was a wise one.

On my first visit to Monkseaton Middle School the children were busy planting dozens of saplings provided by the Woodland Trust in a neglected corner of the school grounds where they had spent weeks clearing the weeds.

They did well, though the tools they had were hard to use for little hands.

I was so impressed by the group who had volunteered to take part in the Green Plan It project. Assertive enthusiastic ones or shy and quiet, they all pulled together and worked with some excellent computer skills, researching information and photos, delegating tasks to each other as they planned their design and model.

Together they were learning some valuable social skills as well. It's the mentor's role to advise and encourage and working with such enthusiastic children was a pleasure.

Ten weeks later, the day all the Turn to Page 28 From Page 27 schools returned to Kirkley Hall to proudly show off their finished work was even more exciting than the first.

The ingenuity, thought processes, IT and craft skills of each school were impressive. Some schools were more adept than others but it was great to see the effort made by all. The tables and stands were covered in photos, drawings, plans and models.

A number of teams arrived late because of traffic problems - my group were delayed because the bus that turned up was too small for them all, they had to book another coach at the last minute. In the excitement one youngster got car sick on the journey, just one of the additional hazards of taking part in a project like this one. Happily they all arrived safely in the end and put on a great display. The day ended with every school leaving with a prize, a new outlook on the joys of gardening and a sense of achievement.

This winter some have returned for another attempt and hopefully more will join in the future. This project reaches schools which may not have a school garden to display in other competitions. It includes an age group with many other conflicting interests and children from all backgrounds who may not have a garden of their own, so it has a special value in reaching children other horticultural competitions may miss.

This year I have been working with groups in one of the oldest schools in the region, the Royal Grammar School in Newcastle. A different school but the enthusiasm is the same. It's good to see the joys of gardening being recognised across the academic spectrum as something of value to all age groups and abilities.

It's good to see the joys of gardening being recognised across the academic spectrum as something of value to all age groups and abilitiesMarian Foster


BBC Gardening expert Marian Foster speaks at the 50th anniversary of Northumbria in Bloom at Gosforth Park Racecourse

Iain Buist

Marian is keen to show school pupils the joys of gardening
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Publication:The Journal (Newcastle, England)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Dec 14, 2017
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