Sunday, 18 March 2012

The beauty of gardening

I have been reminded today, whilst visiting my parents, of one of the things I love about gardening; how much gardeners love to share their passion and pass it on. My father and my mothers father were always gardening when I was young. I did not pay much attention then and certainly not as a teenager. I can remember being bemused by Gardeners World and why anyone would want to watch it. Now I realise the interest was being developed without me realising. My passion was instantly born as soon as I had my own garden and I wait eagerly for Gardeners World.

Wandering round my fathers garden, greeting old friends as they push through the soil and sharing ideas, I am so pleased to have an inherited his knowledge and skill. To be able to share it with him now is invaluable. I feel lucky and inspired by my father.

This makes me even more determined to build ZCE, Zinnia horticulture and the nursery. To be able to share the passion with the team and with gardeners everywhere. I hope we can inspire others one day.

I only wish I had listened more to my mother and let her share her sewing, knitting and cooking skills with me. As a child it seemed old fashioned and as a teenager my confused feminist ideals made me undervalue these things. Now when I have so title time to spend with my parents and to learn new things, I regret this.

Saturday, 3 March 2012

A big thank you

We need to say a big thank you to Michelle from UK Daylilies.

Michelle has generously allowed us to use images of Daylilies for our marketing and websites.  Without this we would have found it difficult to develop our plant retail website.  We need to really build our plant selling business in 2012 and now we feel very positive about what we can achieve.

Please have a look at her website  where she is selling many rare Daylilies we do not have available.

Welcome to our newest Team Member

To start 2012 positively we have taken on a new employee in the role of Project Worker.  It is an interesting role with responsibilities ranging from making tea to researching new business ideas.  So we needed someone who was willing to get stuck in to any job and develop their own skills along side the developing business.

We are happy to introduce Joe and to be able to employ a young person (Mr Cameron will be pleased) whom we hope to support to learn new skills, gain new qualifications and move forward with his own career.

Joe is particularly interested in drama and performance and we look forward to having his enthusiasm and bubbly personality as part of the team.

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Each step forward...

creates new steps to be taken.  I have had a very positive day, starting with meeting our accountant for the first time and then finalising the business account, but it really did result in an even longer to do list.  Next time I will make sure I have some of the team with me because I realised today how much there is to learn about running a business, business law, employment, tax and so much more.  We all need to take every opportunity to learn and make joint decisions as they arise.   

The day has made me think, perhaps as we learn and move on, we can create an accessible guide about the stages to start up a business.  It could be useful when we begin working with new people and during inductions.  Working on projects such as accessible guides would give us the chance to pass on all the new things we are learning and the business skills we hope to develop.

The next thing to do is to sit down with the list and decide who will do what, set some deadlines and be ready for more hard work and exciting challenges.

Saturday, 10 September 2011

Garden Blitz

This post is coming much later than intended, but unfortunately I am stuck in a catch 22 at the moment because to fund the plans of ZCE I am working full time and putting a percentage of my wage into the social enterprise.  This means I have little time to do the work of ZCE.  The social enterprise can have my money, but not my time or vice versa and in reality it needs both.  The way I intend to end this problem is to employ a Project Assistant/Support Worker, but more on that another time.  This post is about the event last week at Bromley Y garden.
Firstly I need to thank the wonderful volunteers who gave up two and a half hours last Saturday 3 September to help at Bromley Y garden to get some of the areas under control and tidied up.

We had excellent weather and everyone turned up ready to work, but also to enjoy being outdoors among friends.  Not everyone was happy to be photographed, including myself,  but I did manage to get a couple of pictures -

There is more information about the garden and the work to be done there on the Zinnia Horticulture page.  As the first event organised since ZCE went live I was really grateful for the support and with the outcome and I am really looking forward to the next challenges. 

How I love to prune

Today I spent two very happy hours pruning a hedge of Jasminum beesianum, Roses, Honeysuckle and Clematis.  This was not for a Zinnia Horticulture job, but in my own garden.  I moved to a new house in January with a garden that comes close to being my dream garden (if there were a few acres for animals it would be).  There are some incredible mature plants, including a pergola with a Grape vine and Wisteria I think could be 20 years old.  Both are in need of serious pruning and the Wisteria flowers were disappointing, but we’ve had buckets of grapes.   It is a job we will have to tackle later in the year when the fruit has gone.
Nothing in the garden has been properly pruned or trained in many years including the hedge and I have been looking forward to starting to get things under control.  I could not identify the Clematis this year because it was lost behind the Rose, but I have chosen to take it right back.  When the new shoots show in the spring I can train them forward to flower to the front of the hedge.  I have tried to identify the rose, but until we came to this garden I had no interest in roses and there are a number of possible plants it could be.  It is a dark almost florescent pink that fades to a lighter shade.  In my garden it has reached about 10ft tall with an 8-10ft spread and it repeat flowers. 
There are many reasons why I love pruning.  It is a job I can become lost in.  I see it as a reverse puzzle because, with each branch I take out, I can see the ones which need to follow.  It is not a strenuous job, so on a day when I want to take on something more relaxing (by which I mean more relaxing than digging over the vegetable plot or putting in a pond) it is ideal. I think I like to restore order, but I also like the promise held in a pruned plant when the job is done.  It might look rather bare, but of course in the next season the new growth will be fresh and the overall result much better.
In my garden there will always be something to be pruned and I am going to have ample opportunity to indulge myself.

Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Our very first post

So What are we all about?

ZCE was born from lunch time conversations between two colleagues and I.  We have worked with people with learning disabilities for many years and like many people in health and social care we have ideas about how to better support people.  In the end we decided to try and take some of the ideas forward and donated money between us to create the social enterprise and begin the first projects.

Our main aims:
  • Real employment opportunities for people who otherwise find it difficult to get employment
  • Building networks between organisations providing support and social care and mainstream organisations to enable efficient use of personal budgets and the best outcomes for clients
  • Developing services for individuals in receipt of personal budgets to meet their needs, fill existing gaps in service provision, be truly innovative and use money efficiently
  • To be self sufficient from the outset and run as a business not relying on grants or local authority funding
  • To involve the people we will support from the outset and enable them to develop and manage the business, share their ideas and take them forward
What do these aims really mean?

If you work in social care you might have heard the phrase 'flowers, food and filth' to describe the kind of work people with learning disabilities often get offered.  This refers to gardening, catering and cleaning.  As I have volunteered for three years to support two gentleman with gardening micro enterprises in Bromley, I am not suggesting all work in these industries is unwelcome, but we do aim to develop more diverse opportunities.  For example, we are selling plants and will employ people to manage the plants, but as we intend to do this online we want to also offer opportunities in IT and business, such as marketing.  We have an open attitude towards working with others, sharing resources and finding ways to enable individuals to achieve their goals.  Understanding people are individuals with different needs is key to our whole ethos.

With personal budgets rolling out across the country this is an excellent time to develop new opportunities through social enterprise.  We know the best way to make the most of any funding is to work with others and create strong networks.  Our focus is not on making ZCE into a large organisation, but rather to work at developing micro enterprises and tailored solutions.

We want to be successful, but our success will be measured in positive outcomes for the people we support.

Currently none of the founders or directors gain financially from their involvement with ZCE (infact we donate rather than earn money).  We might reach a stage when we need to make the business our full time employment, but in the mean time we are happy volunteers.  

A larger goal

As we work in health and social care we also have an interest in services for people with complex health and learning disability.  We hope in the future to be able to develop services for this client group.

We are beginning with a lot of ideas, real passion and a tight budget, but we are prepared to learn as we go, work hard and celebrate all the small achievments on the way to the larger goals.