Gareth Lorman and Pia Larsson

2024 is proving to be another busy year in the Park despite the cold and wet weather we've had lately. Nene Nursery is no different and as many of you gardeners know, a garden is never finished and that is how we see the Nene Nursery.

Earlier this year, We wanted to maximise the growing capacity in the limited space we have, whilst at the same time keeping it accessible for all. As a result and with help from volunteers, apprentices and staff, nine new raised beds have been installed in the nursery. One is split into three compartments for our three schools in residence (local schools that regularly visit the Park) to grow, nurture and learn how important these plants are to our lives. The other beds will be filled with different flowers such as lavender, sweet peas and cosmos, and we have also started off seeds and bulbs of basil, chillies, tomatoes, cucumbers, onions and garlic.

We have planted a beautiful fig tree, which over time we will espalier (branches trained flat against a wall) across the fence as this is a lovely sunny spot in the afternoon and figs like nothing more than to bathe in the sunshine!

The potting shed has been given a makeover with new recycled shelves and a plywood floor - it’s now the epitome of luxury.

We also have a new horticultural trainee, Lucas, who will be with us until September, when he will complete his level 1 horticulture qualification.

Last but not least, we have created a small greenwood working area and storage shed which houses a hand built pole lathe and shave horse. This is a great addition to the Nursery so we can teach our visitors about traditional wood working practices and using hand tool techniques safely. 

The programme of social prescribing activities that we started in November 2023, is now on its third cycle. There is a huge variety of activities which we offer to people referred by GPs, social prescribers, local NHS departments and charities, and we have included propagation practice, branch weaving, wood carving and cookery. Providing a calm, welcoming and safe space for our visitors, is already creating great impact and it is heart-warming to us to have repeat visitors to these sessions.

Alongside developing our social prescribing offer to local people, we have been piloting work experience programmes to students with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) from schools across the city. It has been wonderful to see the enjoyment of these young people in learning horticultural and gardening skills and terms – such as propagating microgreens, using wheelbarrows and spades to fill our newly built, raised beds, making kokedamas (Japanese hanging plants) and the potting on of seedlings.

The Nursery is available for bespoke bookings and the ones offered so far have included working with the charity Sense, where people from their local colleges visit us for sensory and horticultural activities.

The Nursery has also been used for networking opportunities, including a busy evening event hosted jointly with Opportunity Peterborough where pizzas made in our onsite fire pit were enjoyed, as well as a green table scaping activity, and we look forward to sharing the green space for many more such bespoke bookings in the future.

We have also opened the space up to the public for weekend events and have so far held a ‘Soup & Soap’ event in March and our ‘Totally Tulip’ day at the end of April.

We will be open to the public again on the 1st of June for a 'Herb Distillation' event, where we will have a guest showing how a copper still is used to extract essential oils from herbs. There will also be craft activities and a ‘gardener’s question time’ feature at this event. It is free to attend but you do need to book, as these events have been very popular!

We are hugely grateful to the ongoing support of our Nene Nursery volunteers, who so kindly give their time and expertise in the roles of maintenance, horticulture and therapeutic volunteers and really help to contribute to the positive, family atmosphere in this beautiful micro-plant nursery.