This week’s #FascinatingFactFriday is about one of our much-valued support staff troupes – the Gardens Team.

Did you know that every year our Gardens Team grow an average of 14,000 plants from seed?

All of the plants that you see in the flower beds and displays around both the King’s Ely and Fairstead House School & Nursery campuses are grown and nurtured from seed by Will Temple, who is our Gardens and Grounds Manager, and his team – Lee Yearn, Jake Northfield, Sam Weekes, and Jon Nicole.

Will said: “Our growing programme is 365 days a year. It starts on the last day of the Michaelmas Term, which is when we sow the first of the seeds for the summer bedding. We even come into work on Christmas Day to water!

“We start the process by working out the weeks in which plants need to be sown. When ready, we then start everything off in the propagators and on heat mats in Greenhouse 1 before pricking/potting everything on into the wider yard, where they are kept until ready to be planted, both in late Spring and in the Autumn.

“On average, we grow 14,000 plants annually, which are mostly used in the seasonal beds and displays at both King’s and Fairstead House, as well as the 200 containers and hanging baskets. We use around five tonnes of compost a year.

“In the twenty years that I have been at King’s, we have grown in excess of 300,000 plants for the school’s grounds!”

The plants are all grown in the seven greenhouses, two polytunnels, and numerous cold frames that we have in our purpose-built yard here at King’s.

Will said: “Some of the plants we grow are also given to classes and clubs around the school, including classes at Acremont Pre-Prep and the Eco Club at King’s Ely Prep. The children love it and they learn about the benefits to wildlife and the importance of knowing where food comes from.

“We work with an increasing emphasis on going peat free and growing plants which are bee and insect friendly. As such, we are planting more and more perennials, such as Erigeron, Verbena, Gauras, and Wildflower mixes.

“We recycle/compost green material taken from maintenance work around the school, mix it with bark and leaves, which then in turn is put back into the beds.

“New projects for 2024 include growing tropical plants for the courtyard beds at Wendreda House, more nature-friendly planting at Acremont Pre-Prep, and creating more diverse seasonal displays around the King’s and Fairstead House sites.

“We don’t just grow plants either – we also have a pond in the yard where we raise fish for the big pond in the Old Palace Garden.”

Thank you for all your hard work throughout the year, team – it really contributes to the stunning environment in which we learn, work, and live!

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