Up the garden path

Up the garden path…

Louise Tomlin takes a look at gardens and loosely related topics. 

This time she’s asking us to ‘green up’ and do our bit for our own patch.


I know I’ve touched on the subject of how importantspending time in green spaces, gardens and the countryside is to our physical and mental well being before, but it may just have been mentioned in passing rather than in depth. However the thought of exploring this phenomenon in this column again came to me when I noticed something surprising in my neighbourhood that not only stopped me in my tracks, but once I had realised what I was looking at delighted me.


I was on a walk and saw that an area of tarmac and paving at the junction of some footpaths had been transformed into a large flowerbed. I was very surprised, trying to remember when I had last walked this way, as I certainly didn’t remember noticing it before.

The flowerbed is in a residential area, but it definitely doesn’t belong to one of the houses close by. It used to be a drab bit of paving with scruffy weeds and a post box on it. Now soil and plants have been encouraged to do their thing on a previously unloved corner of the city. And what a difference it has made. I have no idea who is behind it. It looks a bit random, with parsley popped in next to roses, foxgloves and other plants. I can’t imagine the Royal Mail or the Council having the time or resources to tend it, it’s got a sort of ‘homemade’ feel to it that is very pleasing.


My imagined backstory goes something like this: a person or persons unknown who live close by have taken over the space and cleaned it up and planted it with any surplus plants they have from their own gardens. This is really the only scenario that makes sense to me. If I’ve got that right then all credit to them and my thanks for taking the initiative and making something lovely that truly brightens up the area.


Could this be an example of Guerilla gardening? Here’s the Wikipedia definition: Guerrilla gardening is the act of gardening on land that the gardeners do not have the legal rights to cultivate, such as abandoned sites, areas that are not being cared for or private property. The land that is guerrilla gardened is usually abandoned neglected by its legal owner. That land is used to raise food crops or plants intended for aesthetic purposes, like flowers in an effort to make the area of use and/or more attractive.


Alternatively, it could be in line with a cause that has been championed by the Royal Horticultural Society in recent years ‘Greening Grey Britain’ where they urge people to take pride in making Britain beautiful again by planting a tree, shrub, flowerbed, window box or container. This was following a survey that found that 1 in 4 UK front gardens have been paved over, with no plants growing. The loss of green areas has an impact on wildlife, climate and the environment. Species such as hedgehogs, birds, bees, moths and other insects cannot survive, and rainfall that would normally be absorbed by soil runs off paving and increases the risk of flooding. The loss of plants that absorb carbon and create oxygen also affects air quality, which leads to increased pollution and rising temperatures.  All in all, this is having a hugely detrimental effect on the health and well being of the population.


Well regardless of what the story is behind this little patch of pavement ‘snatch-back’ gardening, I love it and would like us all to give some thought to brightening up or should I say greening up our own areas, even if it is putting a container or two outside our front door or planting up a window box with some geraniums or lobelia – it doesn’t have to be extravagant or very trendy, but if we all do just a little it will make a big difference. And who knows it might even be catching, the more we care for the environment we live in the more others may be encouraged to take more care and do their bit too. Well I can dream, can’t I?


You can find out more about the RHS ‘Greening Grey Britain’ at www.rhs.org.uk


Catch up with me on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram or email: