Posts tagged ‘health’

October 26, 2011

Secret London Garden #8: Forest Farm Peace Garden, Hainault

by growingpeople

 

For lovely Naomi’s birthday we took a trip to the Forest Farm Peace Garden on Hazelbrouck Gardens in Hainault – so far East London that it’s technically Essex. The nine mile cycle to get there from Hackney quickly turned in to fifteen after getting lost a dozen times – but we did find a nice apple tree on the way, somewhere inside the Roding Valley.

This garden, built on an abandoned site is sumptuous – part allotment, part community garden with an eclectic mix of users (and hence an eclectic range of crops) – it is also deceptively large and feels self-contained somehow – as if you could spend days here and always have something to do. Don’t be put off by their website (or lack of) – it’s a truly inspiring (and beautiful) place.

When we visited, on an apocalyptic grey Sunday in October, the garden was open for the Abundance Open Day. An enormous apple harvest had produced the most delicious, dark brown, thick apple nectar I have ever tasted and was being sold for next to nothing along with piles of the apples themselves, chutneys, pumpkin curry, potato stew and clear East London honey, courtesy of Andy Casson who keeps bees on the site.

The open days are held fairly regularly so keep an eye on the website or join the mailing list to be kept informed.

 

 

August 18, 2011

A shady lane (everybody wants one?)

by growingpeople

The question I get asked the most when working on clients’ gardens is what to do with the shady bit at the back where not much seems to grow. My answer is always the same – there are lots of shade-tolerant herbs that work very well as ground cover, helping to supress weeds, while having the added bonus of contributing something edible to the garden.

When we grow herbs we tend to think first of species such as oregano, mint and rosemary which really thrive in full sun, but many others will do well in partial shade, or even in areas that are in full shade for some of the day.

Angelica archangelica grows as far north as Greenland and Iceland, so clearly the lack of sunlight is not an issue for it. Its vast umbels are attractive and useful for filling space where nothing much grows, the leaves are good in salads and the flowers, which appear in June are tasty brewed into tea. Myrrhis odorata, commonly known as Sweet Cicely, is a very useful herb which can be used in the place of sugar to remove acidity (think stewed apples). Like Angelica, it quickly takes up vertical and horizontal space in shady spots.

Claytonia sibirica is a winter-flowering herb whose succulent leaves are deliciously bitter and make good ground cover. It’s a woodland plant native to North America and Siberia, so again, not a fan of the sun. This species has pink flowers while those of Claytonia perfoliata are white.

Allium ursinum, or wild garlic, is by far one of my favourite plants and I’ve already talked about it here. It carpets British woodland, so ideal for our purposes. Thanks to zebbakes for the picture and the bread-making tips! In the same family, Allium schoenoprasum, or chives, are easy to grow in shady gardens or among leafy vegetables like cabbages and lettuces. The leaves need to be picked regularly during the summer to promote new growth.

A yellow bay tree (Laurus nobilis ‘Aurea’) will do well in partial shade and the leaves add flavour to soups and stews when used fresh or dried, as will the “midwife’s herb”, Motherwort (Leonurus cardiaca), whose pink flowers can be used in cooking or be made into a tea thought to aid treatment for uterine infection.

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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January 1, 2011

Plants to detox by

by growingpeople

If you, like me, have overdone it this Christmas on the chocolate/cheese/red wine side of things, a detox of sorts may be what you need to get your liver and digestive system back to its pre-festive condition. Many plants, besides the obvious 5-a-day, have a detoxifying effect on the body when taken as an infusion, powder, or other form of extract, and you can even grow some of these yourself:

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