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Garden Maintenance: A meditation
Faith in the land
Hope in the seed
Love in the act
And now abides these three
But the greatest of these is the act
We shall pass this way again
Our faith in those that will be loved
By the ones that we love intact
Our hope in our hands, in dirt, time
Hawthorn, Elder, Ash, meadowlands
The tormented crime of snow in summer
We shall pass this way again
Wanting, under a worm-moon’s night,
To drag earth’s fungal tomb into
The forgiveness of sunlight
The divine act that makes a god
The point of light in the garden
We shall pass this way again
I cannot see visions
But I can see the field from which they spring
Where I sing to the souls drawn fresh from the soil
Where I sing to souls
Where I sing to the souls that have gone before
And that shall pass this way again
Going to be discussing and doing apple pruning on Saturday 18th Feb 2012 at The Olden Community Garden Whistler Street N5
I would be surprise if I was the only person who found the research discussed in this article very moving – it seems to me a profound epistemological shift.
First of all, is it really a garden centre? Well, partly, but it’s called The Camden Plants Centre and that is very much the focus of the place: Plants. Of course it has pots, canes, bonemeal and a discreet stock of chemicals but there is no doubt that the core business and the core preoccupation of its proprietors is flora.
Emmanuel, ‘Manny’ to pretty much everyone, and his wife Anne started up this unusual enterprise about seven or eight years ago when they persuaded Camden Council to hand over a very unprepossessing corner lot on the junction of Hawley Road and Hartland road in Camden Town.
I can remember very clearly what the site was like before they got hold of it; a classic piece of marginal urban landscape, home to buddleia, bind-weed, concrete and chain-link fencing – an important contribution to the accomodation needs and lifestyles of pigeons, squirrels, foxes and rats but of very little use to the local human population.
What they have wrought is nothing short of a miracle. Having cleared it, (no easy task in itself), they built a small glass house/office, built shelving and stocked it all according to their own tastes, creating in the process their very own small community plant centre.
And community is very much a key word here because for both of them this is about their social life as much as their love of plants; open only in the afternoons and not at all during the winter months I think that its probably fair to say that capitalism doesn’t really occupy centre stage in this enterprise. ( I wouldn’t want to call Manny’s work ethic into question but it is no lie to say that ‘Google Street View’ had, for quite a long time, a fetching image of Manny fast asleep in his arm-chair at the entrance to his emporium.) Let’s just say that its more a way of life than a business and that is what I really appreciate. Apart from anything else it is also forms an important part of the lives of the pensioners of the local area – a genuine boon.
Which is all to the good, but their love and passion for plants also shines through in the surprisingly comprehensive stock to be found crammed into this little corner of tatty, crappy Camden and this should be of interest to any plant-lusting gardener.
There’s always a surprise for me there when I visit – most recently I spotted a couple of unusual climbers, Mitraria coccinea ‘lake puyehue’ and Billardiera longiflora, neither of which I use very often in my planting plans, so its good to be reminded of their existence. There’s also some gorgeous Cephalaria gigantea lurking in there – I’m just waiting to pounce on them. I have already reserved 4 of the climbing Fuschias that they’ve grown from cuttings – I’m going to pass them through a bay laurel hedge for a slightly mad effect.
All I can say is get there when you can – but not in the mornings, or Mondays or in the winter months.
Seeking to combine two of my areas of expertise I have a couple of times conducted a competition on The Robert Elms Show in search of the best pub garden.
The Faltering Full Back in Stroud Green came first once and then second the next time, but then only because The White House on Green Lanes had introduced guinea fowl and an enormous pie-bald rabbit into their shisha garden, which had a certain novelty value.
(Interestingly, The White House is the only pub I’ve ever entered which had been drunk dry just before I got there – everyone had left except one barmaid and she advised me of this fact in a kind of slightly stunned and surprised way. “Even the Creme de Menthe”. It was the night Wenger won the double for the first time in ’98; Blackstock Road was a sheet of broken glass over which charged groups of mounted police officers.)
I have talked about the raised decking and galleries at the back of the Faltering Full Back quite a lot on the radio and there’s no doubt it is a fantastic bit of timber construction. Its other outstanding quality being its imaginative use of what was a fairly limited space. The planting combines architectural forms such as bamboo and Cordylines with a good old-fashioned garish bedding display.
All to the good, except that I have been drinking there a little recently. I say drinking there, but this is not entirely accurate; I suppose ‘waiting for a long time as if you are some sort of reincarnation of HG Wells’ Invisible man’ would be more accurate. In a random manner, if you hang around at the bar long enough, you may be offered the opportunity to purchase a drink.
However, this has allowed me to experience one of the rewards of age, (and god knows there are few enough of them). Although my patience has been stretched to breaking point, I have had the perspicacity, or sufficient self-consciousness if you like, to realise that a dirty-fingered, unshaven old git in a battered paper hat lurching towards the preening, cooing, self-regarding individuals that decorate the bar area, growling “Don’t you know who I am?” is going to be a somewhat unedifying spectacle.
I don’t know whether its the recession or intelligent trading policy but the 99p and pound shops of London are stocking huge amounts of gardening goods. Needless to say, a great deal of what is on offer comes from the lower end of the spectrum inhabited by cheap Chinese plastic goods – but there is still all sorts of good stuff to be had.
Look out for the ‘Chatsworth’ brand, (Poppy and wild flower mix) and, much to my amazement, VITAX, a very well recognised brand of fertilizers – not least its bonemeal; blood, fish and bone and growmore – yes – all at 99p!
Big thanks to ‘Swampy’ Arison for pointing the way on this one