J G Ballard wrote that the “suburbs dream of violence”, describing town and city dwellers counting down the days until the “nightmares that will wake them into a more passionate world”. While poets, artists and storytellers have long been fascinated by this dynamic of stultifying yet addictive city life, guerrilla gardeners, Lucy Purdy discovers, are turning to the soil to grapple with ecological and social disintegration.
Where horses once thundered past, kicking up earth during the dark chivalry of a jousting contest, now sit plump pumpkins with burnt orange skins, beneath the late summer sun. They take their place alongside peas, salad crops and herbs in a spot only a stone’s throw from the banks of the River Thames. This is the Hampton Court Palace Kitchen Garden, newly restored and packed with heritage varieties – a thrill to the senses and a slice of history to boot.
Whilst small spaces do not readily lend themselves to water features and ponds, there are ways to create a space with water. City gardens are not just a little bit of calm in an otherwise manic world, but are also great for introducing wildlife, and ponds are no exception to this.
We take a trip to the nursery or garden centre and return home with booty which promises to transform our garden spaces. Full of good intentions, but too busy to check, the next time we look at our plants, we find them at their last gasp and requiring resuscitation. Before last rites are performed, we explain how to care for distressed plants and bring them back to life and suggest some simple procedures to reduce casualties in the future.