Don’t be a wallflower – grow some!

Posted on November 24th, by admin in CT blog. 1 Comment

By guest blogger JEF SMITH

This is a time of year when I think a lot about my friend Ted who died several years ago. Ted had an allotment next to mine and was a wallflower specialist. In his later years he became more and more disabled, so I used to ferry him to the plot where he’d take his seat in his little open-fronted shed, not much bigger than a sentry box, and issue instructions while I did most of the work.
I’ve inherited Ted’s wallflower passion and still grow six or seven varieties. Wallflowers have a long growing season, flowering only a year after sowing and requiring quite a lot of attention in between, so there are many reminders of Ted. The seeds go in May. They germinate well, so during the summer you thin them out, the thinnings providing many more rows. Water well. In early autumn you pinch out the growing points to encourage side shoots and in October/November you transplant them to their flowering positions in the garden. When they flower in the spring, it’s time to sow again. That annual ritual is a sign of my faith that both I and Planet Earth will still be here in a year’s time.
You have to take care throughout the process not to get the varieties muddled; it would be a pity to have a display of Golden Bedder or Ivory White sullied with a flush of Purple Queen. Lazy garden centres sell mixed bunches of plants, but my wife’s a purist when it comes to colours in the borders. I live in fear as blooming time approaches in case I’ve slipped up.
Growing wallflowers would be a good activity for care homes. The year-round activity offers regular engagement for residents who can do a little pottering outdoors and, with good sight lines from dining and sitting rooms, those penned indoors can share the show; even the green ground cover throughout the winter is quite attractive. And of course the scent is wonderful.
Growing many varieties and not wasting the thinnings means that I have several hundred mature plants each autumn and can give lots away. There are people with whom this is now just about my only contact but who would feel hurt not to find me on the doorstep with a muddy package once a year. When I was a director of social services, I gave them to councillors too. It wasn’t exactly bribery, but I calculated that it was pretty difficult to slash the budget of a chief officer from whom you had recently accepted a dozen wallflowers. Homes should ask themselves whether there is someone influential whom they would similarly like to impress with a small gift.
CQC hasn’t changed its regulatory methodology for a year or so, so we must be about due for a new system. I suggest every inspector should ask themselves five questions in deciding whether a home is Outstanding (Let’s call it the Ted Test):

1. Does the management have fully costed plans for the 2016/17 wallflower season?

2. Is the home’s wallflower-growing co-ordinated with that of other members of the local community?

3. Have they tendered for their local council’s raised bed contract?

4. Are wallflowers fully used to promote residents’ spiritual and end-of-life care?

5. Was I offered some?

– The CT Blog is written in a personal capacity – comments and opinions expressed are not necessarily endorsed or supported by Caring Times.

One response to “Don’t be a wallflower – grow some!”

  1. John Burton says:

    Thanks for the gardening tips, Jef. I might try some wallflowers next year. BUT what’s all this about encouraging care homes to bribe CQC? As far as I know, inspectors aren’t even allowed to have meal with residents in case it biases their judgement, and now you’re suggesting a gift of prize wallflower plants. I’m shocked to the core!

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