Vikki Bustard had always wanted to be a teacher but had dreamt of teaching outside rather than in a traditional classroom situation. While working as a Horticultural Training Officer Vikki had the idea for Plant & Play Wildlife Garden and by chance she came across the perfect site to locate the business.
Plant & Play Wildlife Garden is a unique, educational space where families, school groups, special educational needs groups and even birthday parties can learn and have fun. A visit involves learning about the gardens’ wildlife and the vegetables that grow there through a mixture of quizzes and games. The children also get creative with garden related crafts and activities and then they plant up seeds to take home and grow. The garden is designed to have activities suitable for all ages and abilities whilst providing a relaxed and fun atmosphere to learn in. Each month the garden has a different theme, with the focus on scientific learning for older kids and a range of activities for the younger children.
Since opening Plant & Play has gone from strength to strength. Currently there are two sessions a day and Vikki also hosts between 80 and 100 children at the weekend for birthday parties. She is looking at bringing in extra staff which would allow her to perform outreach work with the garden and take a road show around Northern Ireland to children who would otherwise be unable to visit the garden. The majority of custom has come from word of mouth but now the website is generating up to 2000 hits per week.
Vikki has also won a number of awards, including Visitor Attraction of the Year (small category) at NI4Kids 2015 and Start Up Regional Winner (Northern Ireland) at the Big Start Up Loans Competition 2014.