Tuesday, 5 August 2008

No English Newbuild Garden

There are no large parks close to Dovecot Towers – they’re all at least a bus ride away. Some effort was made to landscape the barren concrete outside: there are three raised beds each planted with low maintenance cacti, all neglected and the adjacent bedding plants are gradually being stolen (even that’s better than nothing.)

I watch gardening shows and envy people with the knack. I could, I suppose, plant something here, but it’s a long term commitment. I could grow tomatoes in a bag. Without wishing to get too technical, my balcony has restricted access, as the door and windows swing open and would knock over terracotta planters, so my options are limited.

Despite minimal space, some clever residents successfully grow ornamental plants, and even vegetables. Horticultural dreamers grow flowers on their terrace; bright little posies, geraniums perhaps, in terracotta pots. Elsewhere there is a solitary example of architectural topiary, planted I suspect by the people who let their flats as ‘hotel’ rooms, establishing a veneer of beauty against a beige, Spartan backdrop.

There’s so much that could be done, I know. I read about those amazing guerrilla gardeners who sow illicit plantations under cover of the night, so that locals awake one morning to sudden greenery, fruit and perfumed blossoms. Then again, there are renegade gardeners of another kind altogether. With newbuilds competing for too few tenants, it seems that some flats are being let as large scale greenhouses, where they grow weed. Some tenants still grow their own. Only the extremely daft leave their crop to soak up sunshine on the window sill or balcony.

I know what you’re thinking, but I don’t want an allotment. I’d never dig it. I wouldn’t know what to do with the surplus, and they are so popular now there’s a long waiting list, and anyway, the way I feel today, I won’t stay here long enough to benefit. I love bonsai trees, but they are more demanding than children or pets. You have to trim, love and nurture them, moving them around with the seasons.

I dream of vines coiled over my railings, and harvesting their luscious fruit; of walking outside to be greeted by greenery, a perfumed floral scene, or aromatic herbs, like basil and rosemary. To really grow anything, I’d need to drill holes in the walls to enable a trellis to cling or for securing bountiful hanging baskets, all necessary to maximise the limited space, but drilling is forbidden. I could arrange old car tyres in towers and grow potatoes, or sow seeds for a scented colourful plant pot; I could do that. Someone in the flat a few floors down has done so and their balcony is laden with blowsy blooms dangling in wicker baskets (once again it’s a hotel.)

There are so many things I could do to improve my quality of life. When, finally and inevitably I leave, a plaque on the wall outside will read: ‘Rentergirl lived here full of good intentions, but never got around to any of it.’


Tankgirl said...

AHH!! the thought of an urban Hanging Gardens of Babylon amongst the concrete is such a wonderful image..
I found myself walking past the new ‘Green Quarter' yesterday and apart from thinking just how many ‘quarters' are they going to be in Manchester I was struck by just how un-green the development was. I think I saw a bit of grass squeezed in there and a few trees..more of an afterthought than a concept. Have you been to the Urbis Urban Gardening exhibit ?very inspirational designs on show but I just cant see developers bothering there is just no profit!
I’m lucky enough to be near to the City Centre and have (rent) a small house with garden but its mainly a boring lawn which I would love to dig up but the landlord isn’t keen on that (as well as us putting anything up on the walls apart from fresh magnolia paint!)

Have you thought of cacti ..Yes they are not everyone’s cup of tea but low maintenance and the Echinopsis genus have beautiful flowers, some sweetly scented, some night flowering they just need plenty of light and a bit of love. There are many cacti that can be quite frost resistant as long as they are kept bone dry.

RenterGirl said...

Thanks Tankgirl! I will think about cacti: I'm not going to tolerate a another desert. The Urbis exhibition is so inspiring. I especially loved the buildings covered with greenery growing on the walls. I'd like to see most buildings bedecked with a carpet of grass (or veg? or flowers? or herbs?) but I'll make do with beige ceramic tiles and grafitti. Thanks for reading.