Thousands of little fingers turned green at this year's Hampton Court Flower Show after the organisers let children in free for the first time. The move was aimed at shaking up gardening's fusty image and encouraging a young generation of gardeners to get planting, something the IoS has been doing all summer with our Let Children Grow gardening campaign.
Almost 5,000 children visited the show last year, and this year that number is expected to rise dramatically, thanks to a child-friendly programme of events from making musical instruments out of vegetables to a competition to build a Tudor scarecrow.
If children learn from at an early age where their food comes from, they may be keener on learning how to cook it, and be turned off junk food.
The IoS made its first appearance at the show with a stand dedicated to spreading the message of our campaign to get kids digging in the soil, not just the sandpit. Children from Ibstock Place Primary School in Roehampton, south-west London, lent us a hand, providing entertainment to other show-goers. Nicky McDougal, a teacher at the school, said: "It was absolutely brilliant. The children had a great time having their picture taken. We've planted so many fruit and vegetables within the gardens at the school, and have been eating our own produce."
IoS staff manned the stand and distributed thousands of packs of seeds, provided by the National Trust, and seed calendars, to parents and teachers. Food Glorious Food is a National Trust campaign to inspire people to grow their own food. More than 170 million free seeds – and advice – will be given away at Trust properties until October. Those wishing to participate are being invited to log on to foodgloriousfood.org.uk.
More than 1,000 schools have now signed up to the Let Children Grow scheme, run in conjunction with the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS). More than 200,000 pupils around the country are now benefiting from growing fruit and vegetables.
Yesterday there were a number of talks in the Cookery Theatre designed to show children what to do at the next stage after they have harvested their crops. Kids in the Kitchen and Getting Children Started in the Garden showed them what could be done at home.
Other attractions for kids included the chance to feed a venus fly trap, and garden trails. Sustainability gardens were also introduced for the first time this year in a bid to inspire visitors who are looking for ways to be truly green.
Mandy Almond, Hampton Court Palace Flower Show RHS manager, said: "Getting children gardening, being outdoors, discovering nature and learning is core to the RHS and this action packed event provides fun and inspiration for all the family."
There are 600 exhibitors at the show, which include gardens, nurseries, floral arrangement and floristry and vegetable growers and trade stands.