The Darling Roses Hanging Basket workshop has become a bit of an annual fixture. This being our third year of basketeering, we were starting to think we knew pretty much all there is to know about putting a good hanging basket together. We were wrong. This year's workshop, at the Leeds City Council Nursery on Redhall Lane, showed us that we aren't quite the perfect basket cases we thought we were. For anyone who hasn't been to the Nursery (known as Redhall), or who isn't aware of its existence, it is one of Leeds' best kept secrets.
Before we started on our baskets, Lee, a member of the small but awesome team who man this vast operation with military precision, gave us a fascinating insight into what the nursery does and how they do it.
In over 6 acres of greenhouses, more than 3 million plants a year are grown from seed, to stock all the parks, roundabouts, flower beds, school grounds and other municipal spaces throughout the city. As if this wasn't enough of a mammoth task, they also support community groups and organisations, including Leeds in Bloom. Oh, and they man their own nursery shop 7 days a week, selling plants and other gardening products, to the public, too.
Many of us have often wondered how the hanging baskets throughout the City are put together, because they always look stunning. Cue Jerry and Ken who have been making hanging baskets for the Council for over 18 years. We were clearly learning from The Masters. Like Yoda instructing a group of eager Luke Skywalkers', they guided us through assembling our own baskets. The Force was truly with us, as the end results had that polished and professional edge we'd always really wanted to achieve.
Back at base, there was only time for an emergency cup of tea, before our talk by Nicola Pullman from the Leeds Museum Service, started. Two days after a general election seemed a fitting time to learn about the Women's Suffrage Movement in Leeds. While some of us might have been unhappy with the outcome this week, unlike previous generations, we had at least been able to vote.
We were familiar with the names of Emily and Christabel Pankhurt and Emily Davison, but few of us were aware of the following activists in our city - Leonora Cohen (Often referred to as Leed's' forgotten suffragete), Lillian Lenton, Isabella Ford or Mary Gawthorpe. For us to be able to put our X's in the box of our choice, these women fought (often literally) for our right to do so. Frequently acting outside the Law (on the basis they hadn't voted for the laws in the first place and weren't, by extension, bound by them), they waged a violent and cunning war of attrition, until finally their demands were met. Using slides showing original newspaper cuttings diary entries, artifacts and photographs, Nicola brought the struggle of these inspirational women to life.
It had been well over 3 hours since any food had passed our lips, so the scene around the lunch table was like something off a David Attenborough documentary about Great White Sharks. Not a pretty sight.
Lessons of the day include:
1. It's OK to stuff your hanging basket to the rafters with plants.
2. If you want top quality plants, grown by experts, at excellent prices, head over to Redhall Nursery.
3. Never stop fighting for causes you truly believe in because you CAN make a differance
4. And lastly, it's probably not a good idea to lob an iron bar through the display case containing the Crown Jewels. It worked out ok in the end for Leonora Cohen, but you might not be as lucky.
Many thanks to Ken, Jerry and Lee and all at Redhall Nursery and to Nicola Pullman for all making this day really special for us.
Blogger: Sarah Glynn
PS we also managed to collect over 100 items of dry food for our local food bank.
PPS We have also started raising funds for our Darling Roses Denman Bursary 2016. The lovely Sally donated a selection of vintage fabrics which we sold on the day. We are now looking forward to seeing what becomes on them.