I was in need of a garden and the wasteland was in need of a gardener. Not a match made in heaven but one where we battled out aspirations and possibilities and came to an uneasy compromise.
History: With a growing preponderance of absentee owners and service charges allocated primarily to the upkeep of the block of flats, the large communal garden fell down the list of priorities. Neglected for more than a decade, the grounds became a woody wilderness, where brambles and ivy thrived and Sycamore trees quickly sprang up to shade out and leech the soil. An agency was employed to mow the grass and what remained was left to fend for itself, aside from an elderly, now deceased, resident who carved out a patch for his herbs and beans.
Missing the garden I used to have after moving to London, I opted to tend, tame and cultivate the communal area. At times it has felt like the task of Sisyphus, with limited finances, ground rule restrictions and the challenges of dry soil in a predominantly shady setting. I can truly say that I’ve learnt the lesson of having to adapt to the garden environment yet visualisations of its design potential remain:
Despite all my labours, there has been no phoenix rising from the ashes but rather a steady morphing back into a pleasant and peaceful space for people to share and enjoy, beyond the cacophany of a main thoroughfare. Without herbicide or pesticide and the addition of a small pond, log piles and bird feeders, the garden has become a mini nature reserve in a network between parks and squares. Ultimately this is what gardening in London is all about.
My residential block of flats and its communal garden are now under the aegis of a new Landlord. Like the proverbial broom, Health and Safety rules have swept in, prohibiting me from continuing as voluntary gardener. Instead I would need to take out personal liability and equipment insurance in order to compete with other gardening firms for the contract. After much consideration, I’ve
told the Agents to stuff it declined to do this …More