I opened my garden to the public today as part of DRARA’s ‘open gardens’ programme in aid of creating a ‘dementia friendly neighbourhood’. Over 50 visitors between 2-6pm in glorious weather. Shame the garden didn’t look more colourful. Wisteria, clematis montana, ceanothus and camellia were out, plus some apple blossom, but basically that was it. The garden looked pretty – i put quite a bit of work into grass cutting, edging and generally making sure pots etc were filled and the hens were on best behaviour. Several very young visitors were enchanted by them – feeding them melon seeds and cooked rice was a big deal. Romantic Moderns author Alexandra Harris was one of the first visitors and admired the compost and the statuary. Mavis and Colin brought honey – and went away with eggs. One visitor, peering at the Venus de Milo, said ‘Why has that lady got no arms?’
Its opened! After a lot of preparation and a very long day out at the studio in Charlbury yesterday mounting, framing and hanging the pictures, Clare Carswell’s and my Artweeks exhibition opened today. It takes a new perspective on my long term photo project on worldwide urban agriculture, looking at growing in confined spaces across the world, including Havana Cuba – rooftop vegetable growing in tyres using soil painstakingly collected from the markets, to a wonderful gent rearranging his pots of honey at an open day at an allotment site in Bristol, as Morris dancers limber up in the background. Clare has added her take on the garden beside her studio and we have combined it with a quirky collection of objects I’ve acquired on my photographic travels, ranging from a pot of honey from New York skyscraper-based bees, to beer from hops grown on an allotment in Oxford. I’ll do the occasional update on audience reaction over the next few weeks.
A tweet from Cultivate, the Oxford-based local food growing and sell-from-veg-van-co-op, a couple of days ago calling for rhubarb:
Now, does anyone have rhubarb in their backgarden going spare?! We’re looking for a hyper-local source. We’ll pay! Call Doireann 07507566137
— CultivateOxford (@CultivateOxford) May 14, 2013
I get back to them and all of a sudden find that I’m a supplier. From today my allotment rhubarb glut will be put to good use and earn cash too. First delivery was 5kg. Wholesale price £2 per kg. As Mr Mickawber might have said “Result – happiness”.
The Garden Organic AGM at their magical demonstration organic garden site at Ryton-on-Dunsmore. President, Tim Lang is speaking. His riff is on why public health professionals are getting interested in growing. It’s the rise in the epidemic of non-communicable diseases: obesity, heart disease, cancer.
While 900 million people worldwide are hungry, 1.4 billion are obese. He wants to correct the relationship between people and food to promote health; a cultural issue. And he then goes on to name-check me for the “slightly quirky, crazy approach” I “pioneered at Warwickshire County Council by introducing the master composting and master gardening programmes.” Flattering, but I didn’t really have quite such vaulting ambition. More a case of reducing waste to landfill as part of our waste management programme.
What was really interesting though was the lady who stood up in the audience and told a story about how she was taking blood pressure and suffering from diabetes tablets until her GP told her to get an allotment three seasons ago. Since then she has lost 5 1/2 stone and no longer takes the tablets. And she looked healthy.
I’m starting this blog and the title is inspired by receiving an invitation to a Garden Party at the Palace, all thick card and gold edging for a date later in the month. It’s for my work with Garden Organic. Composting and all that. ‘We will have to go as Lord and Lady Muck then’ says my partner, from now on, Lady Muck. How right. A blog is born.