The time has come for community gardening – so much so that the centre piece of this years’ Hampton Court Palace Flower Show is the urban oasis – a maze of examples of how concrete jungles can be transformed into productive and pretty pockets of flowers and produce – just like our very own bungaroosh paradise at London Road Station. The Royal Horticultural Society and Groundwork, who commissioned the garden, invited members of neighbourhood groups to the oasis last Sunday. To help promote the possibilities community gardening presents in regenerating neglected nooks in neighbourhoods, we were tempted with the offer of a free snoop round the showground, a t-shirt and the chance to fraternise with fellow urban earth grubbers (and a bit of celeb gardener spotting). Diane and Mary couldn’t resist.
We arrived to a chaotic site, passed the health and safety check (sturdy shoes, no children), slipped on the statutory Hi Vis (the uniform of the community gardener – its a dangerous business), and joined a herd of fellow volunteers corralled into the half built urban oasis. A photographer on a cherry picker shouted inaudible directions, as we gathered around the celebrity, and took pictures. All jolly good fun – and even though hiding amongst fruit bushes at the back – we are in there somewhere – honest! We met gardeners from Winchester and Fareham, nurturing a site on a cricket pitch, a large contingent from Bognor, and a lady from Essex, who asked Chris Beardshaw if he was a gardener (he gracefully replied ‘one of them’).
Following an hour or so of posing (so glamorous), we were let loose to wander the site.
While set up was still in progress – it was fascinating to see the all the work – and chaos – that goes into producing the world’s biggest flower show – stepping over piles of sand, dodging trucks and resisting the temptation to run off with boxes of plants. A series of low cost gardens were particularly striking – and we were drawn to what turned out to be the winner – and the cheapest ‘Our first home, our first garden‘.
Also interesting, was the extensive use of ‘weeds’ in a number of the low cost gardens, and in particular around one display, the Edible Bus Stop – underplanted with flowers and food – maybe something that could make London Road Station’s ghost bus stop useful? This garden, A Riot of Colour, was influenced by the London riots, and juxtaposed with the community gardens of the oasis – it showed how gardening can transform the character of neighbourhoods and boost community cohesion.
We had a great day out – thanks to RHS and Groundwork and the rest of the LRSP gardeners who have created our own urban oasis.
Mary and Diane