Louise Canfield from Aylett Nurseries talks to Cultivation Street
Who are you and where do you work?
My name is Louise Canfield and I am the Garden Centre Ambassador at Aylett Nurseries in St Albans.
What does being an Ambassador mean for you?
Being an Ambassador supports our efforts to engage with our community. We work hard to make our garden centre the hub of the gardening community, and as our involvement in the local community grows, so will our customer loyalty and business.
Tell us about how you have interacted with schools or communities so far?
We have had the pleasure of being involved in many local projects, including:
- 2018 is our 10th year of supporting the CHEXS Grow Clubs.We have assisted with the setting up of Grow Clubs, growing guides, training and workshops for teachers and children and competition judging.chexs.co.uk
- Foodsmiles Incredible Edible Civic Centre & Russell Avenue Garden Projects. Tools, Seed & Recycled Christmas Tree Chipping donated.“Anyone who lives, works or plays in St Albans is invited to pick food from the garden, and to help out. We hope that it will bring local people together, provide free food for anyone who would like it, enhance the town centre, provide food and shelter for wildlife, and enable us to teach and share growing skills and promote the benefits of growing-our-own. The garden is small, but will have a rich mix of berry bushes, rhubarb, vegetables, herbs and edible flowers.” foodsmilesstalbans.org.uk
- Roads in Bloom
- Radlett Lodge School Allotment
- North Watford Allotment & Garden Society Monthly voucher donation for membership raffle and seeds donated (seeds are passed on to local schools that allotment members work with).
- London Colney Allotment Society Seeds donation for allotment members.
- Wheathampstead Parish Council Wheathampstead Village Day – provided ‘Best Allotment’ competition prizes
- WEN – Women’s Environmental Network Seeds Donation for Tower Hamlets Community Seed Library wen.org.uk
What ideas, plans, or projects do you have in the pipeline?
We will continue to support the local projects above. We hope our Celebration Garden at the garden centre continues to inspire and engage our local community, and we will be holding a Scarecrow Competition during our Autumn Festival where we will be inviting local groups, clubs and schools to take part.
We will be running a number of free-to-attend ‘Ask the Expert’ days throughout the year to help our customers get the most from their outdoor spaces.
A number of children’s activities are planned throughout the year to encourage children to grow-their-own and attract wildlife to their garden and outdoor spaces.
Our annual Apple Weekend will take place in October celebrating the best of British apples and highlights local produce, crafts and grow your own.
We will be supporting SuStAinable St. Albans Week (21st – 29th April) and during the week we will be inviting customers to recycle unwanted plastic pots at the garden centre and offering coffee grounds for use in the garden - sustainablestalbans.org
We will be taking part in Garden Re-Leaf Day in aid of the Greenfingers Charity.
We hope to use these activities to engage with the local community, get involved in new projects, and advertise the benefits of taking part in Cultivation Street.
What would you like to see in your area from community and school gardening?
I think the Foodsmiles Edible Gardens will be a huge benefit to our local community and it would be good see this type of garden in more locations.
From working with schools, we could never have imagined the huge positive impact gardening has had on the children that are involved. We have seen children that would only eat Pot Noodles make lunch from the produce they have grown and eat it! We have met children that couldn’t identify some fruit or vegetables, but can now grow them from seed. It would be great to see ‘sustainable, healthy living’ being included in the curriculum - after school growing clubs are brilliant but often limited to small number of children.
It would be hugely beneficial to schools in particular if the larger horticultural industry suppliers supplied schools with ‘starter packs’ or seasonal seed selections to encourage schools to grow-their-own, which is often not possible due to budgets.
Do you have any quick tips for other Ambassadors on how to engage with schools and communities?
We believe that being approachable is the key to success with community projects. When people come looking for help, it doesn’t have to cost your business much at all, maybe a small donation of seeds or items that are not saleable but still serviceable, a discount voucher or special offer, but most importantly a little bit of time and advice.
Less experienced gardeners can often feel overwhelmed at the prospect of a gardening project, but with a bit of direction from a garden centre it can quickly be turned in to an exciting and pleasurable task - a hobby. Once you have inspired someone to garden they will come back again and again, they’ll become regular customers, and they’ll encourage friends and neighbours to have a go at improving their outside spaces too.
Cultivation Street Ambassador
Aylett Nurseries Ltd, North Orbital Road, St Albans AL2 1DH
Tel: 01727 822255
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