Guttering is very useful in the garden for tasks such as early sowings of peas or collecting the rainwater into the waterbutt. At Manor Green Primary School in Crawley, we developed a further use for guttering in the Autumn Term - bulb planting!
The pupils in one of the classes that I work with at Manor Green have complex learning difficulties. Many of the pupils are in wheelchairs and have mobility and speech and language difficulties. Directly outside of their classroom is a small playground where they are going to build raised beds later in the year, which leads to the sensory garden that they share with the neighbouring Manor Green College.
They wanted to brighten up the playground with a few pots of bulbs that would flower in the Spring/ Early Summer. As some of the pupils like to put things in their mouths, it was important to choose bulbs that would not cause skin irritation or other toxic concerns, so we went for Alliums, Muscari (Grape Hyacinths) and Crocus.
We put a layer of compost in the bottom of large pots, starting with the Alliums at a depth of 15cm, the pupils rolled the bulbs down the guttering and into the pots. Then we added more compost and rolled down a layer of Muscari at 8cm, and finally a layer of Crocus at a depth of 5cm. They will flower in reverse order, starting with the Crocus in February/ March.
One standing pupil developed his own technique of dropping the bulbs onto the compost. His teacher was delighted, explaining that they had been trying to get him to develop the skill of dropping rather than throwing but previously had not had much success with balls into a bucket.
I know this isn't the usual RHS way to plant bulbs, but part of the remit of my project is to look at how gardening techniques can be adapted to make it easier for all to get involved.
If you want to try these planting techniques there are plenty of bulbs you could try in the spring term for a summer display, including Gladiolus, Freesia, Agapanthus.
It is always worth checking if plants may be potentially harmful if they are to be planted in a place where pupils can easily access them and brush against them, pick them or eat them. With my schools I avoided planting daffodils (Narcissus), tulips (Tulipa) or irises (Iris) in the Autumn term. The RHS has a guidance note on Potentially Harmful Garden Plants, as does the Horticultural Trade Association and Devon Education Officers have written about Poisonous plants in school grounds, which schools (& my other readers) may find useful to refer to when making their planting choices.