Archive for June, 2011

June 21, 2011

This week I like

by growingpeople

Digby Road, Homerton

This new-build 14-storey residential project opposite Homerton Overground station takes its undulating triangular shape from that of the previously derelict site it sits on.  The building will aim to operate on 20% renewal energy, is entirely clad in heat-retaining terracotta, boasts a continuous garden roof, two external green walls, (visible from all over Hackney), community garden, playground, rain water recycling system and there are plans in place  for a biomass boiler community heating scheme.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bottle-cap gardening

I don’t actually  like  this, because the idea that you would pay £1.22 plus postage for soil or that there’s even a market for this is completely depressing, but corporate bandwagon aside, this is a cute way of illustrating that you can grow stuff anywhere, and it would be a fun project to try with my students  (using soil from umm, the ground , and not mail-order from Japan).


Whirligro | vertical plant grower

These are great, although the £80 (plus £20 postage) price tag is a little OTT and I’m sure there must be a way of making one yourself. But for those who can afford it, they combine good design and space saving for both indoor and outdoor gardening.

June 15, 2011

Feasting

by growingpeople

We’ve spent the last three weeks in Morocco, where Safi met her huge extended family for the first time and we gorged on tajine, watermelon, almonds, bekkoula, oranges and pots of mint tea.

I was familiar with the Atlas region and the arid south – Marrakech, Essaouira and Agadir, where the landscape is dotted with the endemic Argan (Argania spinosa) tree – cultivated for oil and home to armies of climbing goats – but this time we stayed mainly along the Atlantic coast in the north of the country –  an incredibly productive area, rich in crops as varied as peanuts, bananas, potatoes and purslane, not to mention a range of non-cultivated edibles which grow freely in the wild.

One of my favourite things to do (anywhere) is to explore markets, and here both my eyes and belly were truly spoiled – the frenzy of colour and the abundance of produce (all local, very little needs to be imported) were a veritable feast before even getting anywhere near my plate.

Supermarkets and convenience stores are very slowly creeping into the suburbs of bigger cities like Rabat, Casablanca and Kenitra, but on the whole the Moroccan respect for good food, properly produced and with nothing going to waste means that the daily trip to the market (souk) remains an intrinsic part of family life, particularly in the smaller towns of the north which are fed by such fertile land.

(above) Purslane (Portulaca oleracea) grows freely as an urban weed but it is also cultivated and sold as the principle ingredient for rejla, purslane stewed in olive oil and flavoured with cumin and ginger.

(above) marshmallow (Althaea officinalis) leaves are used for making bekkoula – similar to rejla in preparation but with a more acidic taste. We bought shredded and boiled marshmallow leaves from the huge tubs that ladies brought to the market and added oil and spices to them at home.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(left) purple bindweed (Ipomoea), a close relative of the sweet potato (Ipomoea batata) and (right) oranges growing happily in Tangier

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(left) limes growing in Larache and (right) the barbary fig, or prickly pear (Opuntia ficus-indica) grows widely throughout the country, producing a sweet, bright red fruit after its yellow flowers.

(below left) mint grows everywhere and is combined with green tea and sugar to make the Moroccan staple, thé a la menthe. (below right) bananas ripening in a Casablanca car park.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

June 1, 2011

Secret London garden #3: St. Mary’s Secret Garden, Pearson Street

by growingpeople

It’s very difficult to photograph St. Mary’s Secret Garden in a way that gives an accurate representation of what this place is all about. Sensory garden, herbaceous border, fruit trees, vegetables and woodland all meet here to create this unique horticultural project which serves as both community space (local residents have keys) and therapeutic garden, welcoming adults with mental health issues, terminal illness, and physical and learning disabilities to help maintain the site. Tucked away behind the Hoxton end of Kingsland Road, this is another of those beautifully still spaces in which it’s easy to forget that you are minutes from the creeping traffic of Old Street and Hackney Road.

The sheer quantity of the planting here is overwhelming – and the garden’s layout so full of curves and hidden pockets – which is why my photographs cannot begin to do the space justice. However much time I spend here, I will continue to be surprised by previously unnoticed little chunks of space (or a sink, suitcase or walking boot) with something fantastic growing in it. The garden offers a full program of courses and events, and is reliant on the work of its volunteers.

(above) A re-imagined chest of drawers, a boot, a toilet (or three), a washing machine drum and a baby’s car seat all serve as planters at St. Mary’s Secret Garden.


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