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Preparing for a Green Christmas at The Growing Space

Tuesday 7 December 2010, 11:42
By Sarah Darlington

It's minus 3 on a December morning at The Growing Space, Wincanton's Community and Therapeutic Gardens, and most of the group are crowded into the warm end of the greenhouse making a Christmas wreath to decorate the neighbouring Balsam Centre.

Shaping a frameIt's a jolly atmosphere, with buckets of red-berried holly, bundles of ivy and yew on the floor, the framework of the giant wreath hanging from the ceiling, the smell of damp earth and lots and lots of very bad gardening jokes.

Throughout the year, whatever the weather, groups work together in the gardens of The Growing Space and The Balsam Centre, learn new skills and socialise. There's always a lot of laughter.

Tasks range from preparing soil, sowing seeds and nurturing the young plants to weeding and harvesting. On Tuesdays and Wednesdays, community volunteers, individuals requiring support and students from local schools work together whilst Mondays are 'quiet days', reserved for people needing extra support and Thursdays are for community volunteers.

PottingChildren from the Sure Start nursery at The Balsam Centre learn about growing fresh vegetables at The Growing Space and over the years, much of the heavy landscaping has been undertaken by men and women on Community Service. There is family gardening session on Saturday mornings and horticultural workers work with children from the local primary schools. It's a community garden with a real sense of community.

This morning, Carreg weaves red dogwood stems with traditional holly, ivy and yew into the wreath's framework of clematis stems. There's no wire, ribbon or tinsel, just the simple beauty of the plants. This is because eventually, all the components of the wreath will be composted and will help to grow new plants. Carreg's been visiting the centre for nearly ten years now and enjoys growing flowers and vegetables as much as meeting up with his friends.

Meanwhile, fifteen-year old Katrin is busy creating a smaller wreath to hang in the middle of the big one. Katrin, who is at school in Ansford, visits the centre once a week which gives her an opportunity to interact with adults in the workplace.

'Pricking out'Sally is braving the unheated part of the greenhouse so that she can work on her favourite job: 'pricking out'. This involves separating closely-sown seedlings and placing each plant into a separate pot filled with one of the Centre's home-made composts so it has the space to grow. 'I like the routine of it,' she says, 'the way it always follows the same order.'

Volunteering at The Growing Space is an enriching experience. As Helen, who volunteers on Wednesdays put it, 'It's rewarding to see people relaxing and enjoying the activities.' If you are interested in volunteering, need some support or just fancy doing some gardening, contact The Balsam Centre for more information on 01963 31842.

Oh, and by the way, What does Father Christmas do at The Growing Space?

Hoe, hoe, hoe. Of course.

Sarah Darlington


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