Diplomacy is a fine art and a beautiful thing to see in action.
For example, when Emma, the pre-school leader said to me: "I was thinking it might be a good idea to put some dates in for gardening club, what do you think?" I nodded vigorously and committed to coming in once a week for the rest of the term.
In fact it was only later that I realised what she really meant was "Dawn, you useless woman, it's been weeks since you showed up, so even though it's harder than nailing jelly to the wall, I will make you put dates in your diary."
Still, this doesn't mean I've gone as far as actually planning what to do each session. At the start it was easy - we've been sowing seeds and then planting out more tender crops, but, with only one small raised bed and a few pots, there is a limit to what we can do (especially as our first harvest is still a week or two away).
So on Thursday I decided to go off-piste a little. Rather than our usual edibles, I chose to focus on ornamentals and asked the children to do some flower arranging. Luckily I have a ready supply of flowers in the garden, so I nipped out in the morning and cut lots of relatively short stems from my geraniums, lamiums, Alchemilla mollis, catmint, perennial wallflower, mint, sage and, pretty much anything else in bloom.
I pulled off the lower leaves (two and three-year-olds would struggle to do this without pulling off the whole stem) so they wouldn't rot in water and put each type of flower and foliage in a separate jam jar with water.
We used disposable plastic cups for vases and each child put a few stones in the bottom so they wouldn't get top heavy and fall over. Then they poured in some water - some even managed to stop before the top - and began "arranging". I'll admit we didn't talk in great detail about the principles of balance, contrast, proportion and colour but I just about managed to explain that it was a good idea to use foliage alongside the flowers and that using more than one of each flower would look less bitty.
In the end, despite one or two embracing "minimalist" compositions, all the children went home with an arrangement and were sweetly proud of their efforts. If you're doing this at home with a bit more time and one-to-one supervision, you could use jam jars rather than plastic cups - or even find some miniature vases. These could then be decorated with stickers or acrylic pens and you also wouldn't need the stones (although pebbles or coloured marbles can actually look rather fetching in the bottom of a flower jar). You could also take the children into the garden with craft scissors to cut the flowers in the first place.
And in other news...
Our NGS opening went rather well the other weekend. Despite one of my children clutching a sick bowl most of Saturday morning and another making an unnecessary trip to A&E, we were just about ready on time, had 160 people visit over 2 days and even sold more than half our plants. Even better, the three gardens jointly raised over £2000. Nice.