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Words: Glynis Fox
Photography: Mick Fox
Featured in the January 2015 issue

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As Lincolnshire’s gardens slip into ‘hibernation mode’, country woman Lorraine Bellis is busy sowing the seeds of a new venture, designed to transform her village plot.

Lorraine is preparing the ground for the proper launch of her enterprise Bellis Perennis, which has developed out of her passion for encouraging people to grow their own food, the cultivation of plant pollinators and her deep sense of community spirit.

Living in the lovely estate village of Revesby means Lorraine is blessed with having an enviable-sized garden, which is ideal for someone with such growing ambitions.

She also has the credentials to make Bellis Perennis work, having done a Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) course at the University of Lincoln’s Riseholme Campus, shared her passion with leisure groups and become a trustee – and more recently vice chair – of Community Lincs.

“I am keen to encourage more people to discover the pleasures of growing their own food, because it’s educational, it’s healthy and it’s really satisfying,” said Lorraine.

“I also want to enthuse people about choosing to grow plants which are natural pollinators and which are loved by nectar-collecting insects, such as bees and butterflies. This is very important for the environment.”

In the long term, Lorraine hopes that Bellis Perennis (aptly, the Latin name for the daisy), will provide a great retirement enterprise for her and husband Paul, a self-employed IT-whizz. If it also makes a difference to local communities along the way, that’s all the better.

“I was actually one of those people who took a long time to decide on a career path. I didn’t leave school with a big game plan. I had always been interested in gardening and wildlife and one day I decided it would be useful to boost my understanding of these subjects.

“I did the RHS course at Riseholme, found myself hooked and now I am an

RHS-certified horticulturist. It was all about adult learning and, once those studying had completed their studies, they started thinking, What shall I do next?,” said Lorraine.

Many gravitated towards the field of garden design, but Lorraine was passionate about food production.

“That was the aspect that really pressed my buttons – encouraging people to produce their own food at home. The growth of that movement in urban areas like London, where I once lived, had marked the start of that trend,” said Lorraine.

“The concept of helping people to help themselves and grow their own foods really resonated with me and I thought this is what I will teach people to do. The health benefits include getting people outside, the satisfaction that comes from growing and the fact that you are sharing your knowledge with the up-and-coming generation.

“Anyway, gardening is massively good therapy and has the power to make a real difference to so many people’s lives, including ex-service people and those suffering learning disabilities.”

Lorraine, who relocated from Bourne to Huttoft, before moving to Revesby (near Horncastle) put her knowledge to use when she worked with Sure Start, teaching young families how to grow their own produce.

Her passion for helping communities and the potential power of social enterprises led her to join the Sleaford based charity Community Lincs as a trustee, then rise to become its vice chair.

“When they were looking for trustees I decided to apply, because I especially care about rural communities and helping people to live better lives,” said Lorraine.

But back to her latest project and her exciting plans for 2015.

“I am starting to develop a small nursery specialising in plant pollinators and in the process of laying out my garden to grow these types of plants. At the same time, my husband is building me a giant greenhouse,” she said.

“I will be specialising in old-fashioned varieties of flowers, such as members of the daisy family, larkspur, echinacea, verbena bonariensis, foxglove, sunflower and lupin, as well as vegetables, which are also good plant pollinators.

“I plan to run special days in Revesby Village Hall, where I will sell my plants and offer visitors tea and cakes. People will also be able to look around my garden and I also hope to start offering courses which will educate people about the value of plants which have not been hybridised. The whole idea is to offer a nursery experience with a difference.”

Lorraine would love to hear from groups which might be interested in her new venture and individuals interested in future courses. She is also keen to take her growing message into schools and happy to talk to Women’s Institute, gardening, U3A and other groups. She is planning to open her nursery in the spring.

LORRAINE’S FAVOURITE FLOWERS
Lorraine had to think hard when Lincolnshire Life asked her to name a few of her favourite pollinators because she loves so many of them. Her top choices include:

CERINTHE: An annual and part of the Boraginaceae family, it produces fantastic blooms. Also known as the honeywort and wax flower.
ROSE: Especially old-fashioned Ramblers.
VERBENA BONARIENSIS: Has bright lavender-purple flowers and is a magnet for butterflies.
SUNFLOWER: Very adaptable, makes a massive impact in its first year of growth – and brings the bonus of a crop of tasty seeds for the birds.
SWEET PEA: Another annual. Choose carefully and you will be rewarded with amazing blooms which smell lovely and which are also irresistible to bees.

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