Read Poppy's Garden Online

Authors: Holly Webb

Poppy's Garden

BOOK: Poppy's Garden
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ONE

“I don’t care what it is, as long as it gets us out of reading that stupid book,” Poppy muttered to Izzy.

“Don’t you like it?” Izzy asked, staring at her in surprise. “But you love dogs! You’re always talking about Billy, even if you do say he’s a dumb blond.”

“But the dog in that book isn’t like any dog I’ve ever met. I can’t believe we have to do a book review on it for homework. Mr Finlay isn’t going to be happy if I say it’s a terrible book and I don’t believe the author ever had a dog, is he?” Poppy sighed. “Anyway, ssshh, he’s coming back.”

Their teacher, Mr Finlay, hurried back in from the corridor. “Sorry, everyone! Right, I’m allowed to show you this video now. Mrs Angel’s very keen that we all see it at the same time. Big secret up until now!”

Poppy glanced across the table at Emily and Maya,
and raised her eyebrows. It was probably just another mad history project (they were Mr Finlay’s speciality) but this was actually starting to sound exciting.

Mr Finlay was fussing with the interactive whiteboard, which wasn’t doing what he wanted, but eventually he managed to bring up a YouTube clip and looked round eagerly. “OK, all of you! Watch this carefully…”

The video started with a group of children racing down a patch of grass towards the camera, and then cut to them all digging, jumping in and out of holes, and planting trees.

“This is boring…” Nick muttered from behind Poppy, and Izzy rolled her eyes. Nick and his mates thought anything that didn’t involve football or motorbikes was boring. Poppy thought planting trees looked fun, provided she could have a nice hot bath afterwards to get all the mud off. She and Izzy and Maya and Emily had organised a clean-up weekend down by the canal a couple of weeks before, and it had been great. Maybe they could do some tree-planting along there…

“This year, we’re looking for a school with big ideas!” A man in wellies stomped towards the camera through the pack of muddy, grinning children. He
was vaguely familiar, Poppy thought, although she wasn’t quite sure where from. Something on TV? Other people in the class seemed to think so too, and there was a lot of puzzled muttering going on.

“I know who he is!” Izzy squeaked. “My dad watches his gardening show on TV! He’s called Cam … Cam something.”

“Morris,” Mr Finlay whispered, turning to look at them and giving her a thumbs-up. “Cam Morris. Does a show called
Love Your Patch
.”

“Dad loves it,” Izzy whispered to Poppy. “He always has to watch it. He says it’s useful for work.”

Poppy nodded. Izzy’s dad was a gardener, so that made sense.

“Ssshhh, girls… Listen!” Mr Finlay pointed at the screen.

Cam Morris was explaining something about a garden competition for schools. “Best of all, if your school’s design is chosen, you’ll get to be part of our new television series! It’s called
Growing Up
. Your school can send in a design for a school garden, and we’ll choose six schools to have their gardens built by our team.”

“We get to be on TV?” Emily squeaked excitedly.

“Only if we win,” Maya pointed out. She didn’t
look as excited as everybody else did. Her mum was a singer, a very famous singer called India Kell, so she was quite used to interviews, and photographs, and film crews. She wasn’t really keen on being famous at all.

Cam Morris was talking about garden design now, about not being afraid if your ideas seemed silly, or a bit mad, because sometimes they were the best. He finished off by beaming at them, and shouting, “Good luck!” while all the children cheered and waved and jumped up and down like mad things.

Mr Finlay switched off the whiteboard and looked around the class, rubbing his hands enthusiastically. “So, what do you think? You’ve got two weeks to get your designs in, and Mrs Angel and a group of the teachers will choose the best design to be the entry from our school.”

“Just one?” someone asked, and Mr Finlay nodded.

“Yes, I’m afraid it’s one entry per school. It’s going to be a hard choice.”

Jensen, one of Nick’s friends, waved his hand in the air. “Do we have to do it? What if we don’t want to?”

Some of the other boys sniggered, and Mr Finlay sighed slightly. “No, Jensen, it’s entirely up to you. I
was going to give you a little time now to talk about the competition, and think about what your design might be. But don’t worry. I’ve got a maths worksheet I’ve been saving up. You’re very welcome to do that, instead of garden design…”

Jensen grinned. They knew Mr Finlay well enough now to understand when he wasn’t serious. “I like gardens!” he said quickly, and everyone snorted with laughter. He wouldn’t know the name of a plant if it jumped up and bit him, Poppy thought.

She didn’t know that much about gardens either, but she did love drawing and designing things. She’d never really thought about a garden design. Except – she smiled to herself – except for when she’d had her princess phase, when she’d been about six. Then she hadn’t worn anything if it wasn’t pink (she’d compromised with just pink hair bands for school) and spent all her time watching Barbie DVDs and drawing fairy palaces.
They’d
had gardens. But she guessed that Mrs Angel wouldn’t want the TV people building a Pegasus landing pad (her big brothers had been very into helicopters at the time, and she’d been a bit mixed up) and pink lemonade fountains. She still quite fancied all the roses, though, just maybe not all pink…

But a garden full of roses wasn’t very interesting, was it? Poppy frowned. How could she do a garden design when she had no idea about gardens?

She noticed that Izzy was waving a hand in the air. “Mr Finlay? Where’s the garden going to be? I mean, we need to know how big it is, and what shape. So that we can fit the design to the site.”

Poppy and the others stared at Izzy admiringly – it was just the sort of sensible question she would ask. No one else had thought of it. But the table of girls behind them were hissing nasty little comments. They knew exactly how loud they needed to be – just loud enough that Izzy would hear, but Mr Finlay and Miss Grace, their teaching assistant, wouldn’t.

“She’s such a little swot,” Ali murmured, and her cronies, Lucy and Elspeth, joined in.

“Sucking up again, Izzy?”

“Ooooh, a project… Lucky Izzy. Isn’t it nice she’ll have some extra homework.”

“It’s not as if she ever does anything else,” Ali giggled.

Poppy turned round and glared at Ali. Izzy didn’t say anything, but Poppy knew she’d heard them. She was hanging her head forward so that her hair covered her face, but that meant her ears were sticking out,
and they’d gone bright scarlet.

Ali opened her eyes very wide at Poppy – she had china-blue eyes with long dark lashes, which combined with her thick, wavy brown hair made her look like a particularly sweet sort of doll. Actually, she was one of the nastiest people that Poppy had ever met. It was somehow worse because she looked so nice all the time – well, except when she was sneering, which she did quite a lot. She’d been that way since Reception, and over the last couple of years she’d really started picking on Izzy. Poppy just felt sorry that she hadn’t noticed it much until a few weeks before. She would have hated it if Ali had been as mean to her as she was to Izzy.

Izzy just put up with it, and hardly ever spoke to anyone. But ever since she’d been put in a group with Poppy and Emily and Maya to work on a project about Fairtrade, Poppy had started to realise how funny Izzy was, when she was allowed to be. And she was one of the most organised people Poppy had ever met. She even seemed to think in an organised sort of way.

“Shut up!” she hissed back at Ali, who just widened her eyes a bit more. They were practically round now, which made her look even more doll-faced and cute.

“Who, me?” she mouthed, smiling sweetly at Poppy. “Get lost, Poppy. Mind your own business.”

All three of them smirked at her, and Poppy turned back, hissing through her teeth with frustration. Why was it that people like Ali could be so mean and always get away with it? It was like she stirred things up to boiling point, and then just stepped away and left everyone else to get into trouble. It all slipped off her shoulders.

“Ignore her. She’s a little cow. We all know it,” Emily muttered, reaching over to pat Izzy’s arm.

Mr Finlay had been fussing with some papers on his desk and hadn’t seen what was happening at all, and now he triumphantly waved a bit of paper at them. “Aha! Excellent question, Izzy.”

“Yes,
Izzy
, excellent question…” Ali sneered from behind them.

“And the answer is, that scruffy bit of the playground round the back of the Year Six classroom. So if you win, you’ll all have a lovely view next year.” He consulted his piece of paper. “Oh yes, and the measurements are on the entry form, which needs to be attached to your design when you hand it in, and which I will be handing out to you all now. When I find them. Mmmm. Oh, here they are.” Looking
rather relieved, he rescued a pile of forms from under their extended-writing books, and began to pass them out. “So, you’ve got about quarter of an hour to talk over some ideas, before we need to go to the IT suite.”

“So, do you think you’re going to enter?” Poppy asked Izzy cheerfully. She was pretty sure Izzy was crying, and equally sure that Izzy would hate it if she made a fuss. Poppy quite liked being fussed over if she was upset, but Izzy was one of those people who preferred to be left alone.

“Mmm.” Izzy tried to sniff quietly, and the others pretended not to notice. “I might,” she added in a bit of snuffly voice, still staring at the table. “I’ve seen Dad doing designs. It’s quite fun. I don’t think he’s ever done a school garden though.” She blew her nose quickly. “His are mostly just people’s back gardens. You know. Paths, and a pergola, maybe.”

“What’s a pergola?” Emily asked, frowning.

“Like a wooden frame you grow plants over. It’s nice – you get a sort of living roof. You have them over a patio sometimes, with a table and chairs underneath.” Izzy was looking better now. She liked knowing things. Poppy wondered if Emily had asked on purpose, just to cheer her up. She and Izzy hadn’t
got on all that well at first – Emily hadn’t wanted another person added into their little gang – but she’d come round. She and Izzy had bonded over how unfair it was not to be allowed a pet. Izzy’s dad said he was out at work all day and it wouldn’t be fair, and Emily’s mum and dad said they had quite enough children, and they didn’t need anyone else to look after.

“A pergola sounds nice.” Emily sighed. “Wouldn’t last in our garden though. I bet Toby and James would try to climb it. And the plants would just get squashed. Everything Mum plants gets trashed by a football in less than a week. Or Sukie thinks it’s funny to pull them up. But Mum’s banned her from going in the garden ever since she caught her eating a snail.”

“She actually ate it?” Izzy asked, looking up for the first time. She was still a pit pink, and she had a bit of a white-rabbit look about her, with her super-fair hair and her eyes red from crying, but she looked almost normal again now. “She
ate
a snail?”

Emily shrugged. “Think so. There were shelly bits round her mouth. Mum said to look when I changed her nappy, but I couldn’t tell. What does a snail look like after it’s gone through a two-year-old?”

“Uurggh!” Izzy shook her head. “Shut up, shut up! I can’t believe I used to envy you for not being an only child.”

Emily laughed. “I’d swap any time. I have to share a bedroom with her. She eats everything. Paper. Felt tips. Bits of her toys.” She shrugged. “If I design a garden, it’s going to be strictly for girls over seven only.”

“You’re going to enter, aren’t you, Poppy?” Maya asked. “You’re so good at art, I bet you’ve got a really good chance of winning.”

Poppy screwed up her nose thoughtfully. “I don’t know… The designing bit sounds good, but I’m not really into gardens. I wouldn’t know what to put in one.”

“You painted all those great flowers underneath the canal bridge though,” Maya reminded her. “So you do know a bit.”

“I think they were all wild flowers,” Poppy explained. “But maybe I could put a wild flower patch into the garden. You know, to attract butterflies. And bees. Aren’t bees supposed to be getting endangered now?”

Izzy nodded. “Dad was talking about that. He said no one really knows why, but it’s probably to do with
people using lots of insecticide to kill greenfly and nasty sorts of bugs. But it kills everything else at the same time. Or it might be a virus, or just that there aren’t enough of the right sorts of plants in people’s gardens now, and lots more buildings, so just fewer plants anyway. Bee-friendly,” she muttered, scribbling a note in her rough book. “No chemicals. Organic. Ooh, and a hedgehog hole! My Wildlife Trust email last week said there’s less than a million hedgehogs in this country now.”

“A million’s quite a lot though.” Poppy frowned.

Izzy shook her head. “Not when just sixty years ago there were thirty million of them.”

“So is a hedgehog hole like a house for hedgehogs?” Maya asked, smiling. She could imagine a cosy little hedgehog home.

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