Gardens and gardening have been a bit of a them this year. There was the Poetry School’s Mixed Borders scheme, which didn’t quite work out for me, and my continuing involvement with my local community roof garden. That involvement always felt rather timid and tentative to me, all tied up with my own insecurities and lack of confidence around the nitty-gritty of actual gardening.
So when Louisa, the tireless chair of our community roof garden, asked if I’d help organise a gardening club, the aim of which was to encourage people just like me – hankering to garden but not knowing where to start – to learn a few basic skills in a supportive environment – well, I could hardly say no. With funding from Wandsworth council, the Doddington and Rollo Community Roof Garden partnered with Thrive to offer 10 free weekly sessions on Wednesday afternoons for local people keen to learn about gardening. Thrive provided a horticultural therapist to be our gardening expert, and we recruited 14 enthusiastic wannabe-gardeners for our inaugural Gardening Club. Count me in!
We started in mid October and continued right up until this week. Most of our sessions have been out in the garden, getting stuck in with weeding, pruning, cutting back and some mammoth bulb-planting sessions, thanks to a generous donation of bulbs from the Metropolitan Public Gardens Association as part of their Bulbs for London scheme. Marc, our Thrive horticulturalist, has imparted lots of useful knowledge and tips, and given us a broad overview of plant life cycles and soil types. All delivered with a dry wit.
I’ve overcome, to a certain extent, my squeamishness about getting my hands dirty (gardening gloves, provided by the roof garden, help!) and encountering worms and other creepie-crawlies – not the eight-legged kind, mind, but Marc’s with me on that one. I’ve just about got the hang of annuals, biennials and perennials, and I know the difference between a rhizome and a stolon. Marc’s mnemonic: stolons stay up, rhizomes don’t. Most importantly, I’ve got my gardening outfit sorted: a pair of old cycling leggings, black cycle top, two hooded jackets and that pair of purple wellies I bought years ago and have hardly worn since – until now.
The Gardening Club has been the best sort of hard work and a lot of fun. Thanks to Marc at Thrive, fellow garden committee members Donna and Hadas, not to mention Louisa, and especially the great bunch of Gardening Club recruits who’ve pitched in and helped transform a large section of the garden. Roll on, spring! By then, I hope to have written a new poem, provisionally titled ‘Things My Horticulturalist Says.’