Thursday, 21 July 2011

Urban physicians

I went to the Urban Physic Garden the other day. It's a follow up to last summer's Urban Orchard project at 100 Union Street, SE1. Using recyled wood, donated plants and other temporary structures, including the mossy cross below, a roving Rambulance Cafe, and all the plants grouped into medicinal wards to demonstrate which can be used to treat various ailments, it's more than just a whimisical play on the idea of a plant hospital. This corner of southeast London has a history of medicinal treatment and, of course, it's a bit of a hommage to the Chelsea Physic Garden, just a mile or so downriver. Of course, it's also a very nice spot to grab a bite to eat, and just sit for a moment amongst some unexpected greenery. If you're inclined, there's a load of fun events and talks going on  and you can read up on all the plant uses too.

I love the idea of a pop up garden, using temporary space and temporary growing techniques, especially in an area that has precious little green space. Congratulations to the talented Heather Ring and Co. for pulling it off a second year in a row, with tight funding. They have a great vision for city gardening - making use of unwanted space and finding homes for unwanted plants. I think it just might catch on, but visit before August 15, when it shuts up shop for this summer.

Friday, 15 July 2011

Olympic park

I had my first visit to the new Olympic Park this week. Here is a small part of it. It's being touted as the biggest new park in London, since the Victorians started building green lungs for the poor of the city, and allows LOCOG, to tick off quite a few green boxes. For example, gullies planted with wildflowers and designed to funnel rainwater run-off. Reed bed filtration systems, new wetland habitats, (I predict some very happy East London frogs); a couple of thousand new native trees planted (some of them not looking so healthy); and here's a close up of some of the gorgeous bee, butterfly and insect friendly flowers that are being incorporated into meadow planting designed by Nigel Dunnett and James Hitchmough from Sheffield University with Sarah Price.
They have used sustainable wood for the benches, recycled aggregate and vegetable-oil based adhesive for the paths. There has been lots of cleaning up of the Lea River, cleansing of contaminated soil and lots of earth moving to sculpt some impressive new hills in a very flat landscape. In 12 months time, it will look very impressive and it will fit in neatly with Olympics legacy policy.
But as with all great spectacles, there is a darker side: a thriving allotment site was bulldozed to make way for the park;(apparently the plots will be allowed to 'return' after the funfair). This is being completely glossed over because of the bountiful 'greenness' of the park. And then, after all the millions spent before the Olympics, the care of the park will fall back into the hands of the local authority. I don't know if anyone has noticed, but parks and green space maintenance is right at the bottom of list of priorities for most councils in these austere times. Is it going to go the way of the Green Bridge and Millennium Park at Mile End?  I hope not.
But sport is what it's supposed to be all about. And on that note, I will say that the Velodrome or Pringle building, is really rather gorgeous.  Posted by Picasa

Thursday, 7 July 2011

Lillies, turf and Hampton Court

There is nothing quite like the sensory overload that hits you when you walk into a floral marquee. First there's the perfume of literally thousands of blooms that overwhelms you; then you start to look at all the myriad plants; and then you just want to buy them all there and then.
It's probably just as well that on Press Day at Hampton Court, most of the nurseries are either still finishing off their displays, or they're putting their feet up before the public show days start. So, you can't find anyone to buy anything from. Tempting me were the divinely decadent lilies. I adore them, but after those vile lily beetles ravaged most of the ones I've ever tried to grow, I won't try again (I'll leave the lily display to Stephen next door - perhaps he's been sending the red devils over the fence?). The foxtail lilies, Eremurus, were also stunning - like a big curtain of feathery plumes, but they are a must only for the freest-draining sunniest spots, which I sadly cannot offer.
Elsewhere, there were some good show gardens overall, but my favourites were the two with probably the least plants in them. The World Vision & Plantify Garden, is really a conceptual design to promote awareness of child poverty, with the very tactile turf globe and it's convex mirror image sitting in a black pool. And Tony Smith's Diamonds and Rust garden, all undulating turf and smoking artificial turf tubes. Neither the type of garden you should try at home.
If you were going to try out some stuff at home, the British Heather Growers sunken garden was a beautiful design solution for a small garden with steep level changes - and a very up-to-the-minute way of growing heathers as a green wall (byebye seventies island beds). And although the Bulgarian +359 was not very sophisticated, it did remind me of sunny rooftops and bright floral displays in Europe. I liked the shape of the terracotta pots - even the begonias looked quite fetching.

Anouska Feiler's upside down conceptual garden was fun and creative; and who can argue with a sea of blue agapanthus?