After London: A Vegetal Adventure
Today was a victory for rambling. This morning I found myself on a bus to London without having had much chance to think about what I was going to London for. I had a vague notion that I would visit FARM:shop and perhaps visit Hackney City Farm.I didn’t get to Hackney City Farm but I did see FARM:shop and along the way I came upon a few other things of interest — two of Patrick Blanc’s vegetal walls, Dalston Eastern Curve Garden and the Kings Cross Skip Garden.
A Vegetal Wall
I enjoy walking in new places — rambling. As I rambled my way toward FARM:shop, I happening upon the first of Patrick Blanc’s vegetal walls. It was beautiful. The plants are very sensitively chosen for each niche on the wall and the end result is a beautiful mix of texures and colours which looks like it ought to be there. I was especially interested to see wormwood (Artemesia absinthium) among the mix. Most of the plants appeared to be in good health.
’After London’: Imagining Urban Ecology
As I rambled further, I came upon a fantastic exhibition on Science Fiction at the British Library. This got me thinking about the kind of imagination which urban gardening requires. There was a book called “After London” which explores a post-apocalyptic London being reclaimed by plants and animals. The space between ’nature’ and the city as a quintessentially human space is a deeply contested one. It is difficult to imagine something that is neither a return to a romanticised past nor an entension of the cheap energy mind. The projects I would come across variously represent possibilities of re-vegetating the city — some high tech, others more traditional. There is still tremendous scope for imagining cities and places which plants, animals and people can flourish together.
Before I reached FARM:shop, I was drawn toward another project near by — Dalston Eastern Curve Garden. The people here were very friendly and told me of another Patrick Blanc wall close to Hyde Park. The space was not about high production but it was a beautiful, multi-use space which showed signs of being a vibrant community meeting place; a strong sign of something new.
Finally, I wandering just down the road to FARM:shop. FARM:shop is an art project exploring the possibilities of small urban spaces for food production. It includes aquaponics, fermentation, mycoculture, chickens, sub-irrigation gardens, greenhouse culture and hydroponics. I am skeptical about the energy return on energy invented (EROEI) of intensive urban of this kind but I enjoyed the space and the project’s intent. It was nice to eat my homous and salad sourdough sandwich with basil pesto to the noise of the water moving through the aquaponics system even if I wouldn’t want to eat lettuce of this provinance all the time. Still, I’m sure its better lettuce than its industrial ag. counterpart.
Kings Cross Skip Gardens
Next, I decided to seek out the other Patrick Blanc wall I had learned about at Dalston Green Curve Garden. On the way, I came upon the Kings Cross Skip Garden. Sadly, I couldn’t access the space as it was locked. I did manage to take some photos through the viewing windows which the developers had provided. This project is a really interesting concept — modular, portable deep-soil-culture which can utilise existing containers and transportation technology. There was a greenhouse skip, a shadehouse skip, a re-enforcing-mesh trellis skip and a salad greens skip. It certainly sets the mind thinking about possibilities for providing fresh food to temporary or establishing communities.
Another Vegetal Wall
I then found the second Patrick Blanc vegetal wall — a scale up from the first. This wall also gave some insight into the technology of vegetal walls as the base of the wall was at ground level. I could see the continuous flow of water which keeps the plants hydrated, for example. From what I have read, Blanc’s flavour of vegetal walls is pretty water intensive.
Finally, I went off the the Avett Brothers’ concert which was my ostensible catalyst for my London trip. The vegetal adventure into what might come ’After London’ was the far more satisfying and stimulating part, however. More on some of these project soon, including photo galleries.