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Monday, December 12, 2011

Poetry Fruit Garden: Goblin Market

I grew up on a diet of many delights, one of which was Goblin Market by Christina Rossetti. Living in Stroud some years ago, I felt a connection with this poem of my childhood far away, and this led me to make a film about the poem on Super8.

Now I have returned to Stroud, and at last, have a garden of my own. There is already growing a lovely cherry tree and an apple, some strawberries and the ubiquitous blackberries, and lots of herbs, and it came to me that this could become a fruit garden with a fruit fence strategically placed to screen the road at the back.

And then I heard about the Hampton Court Palace Show gardens designed for poems, and although I think these seem to be rather clumsy and literal attempts to represent poems, undaunted I thought I could set myself the task of growing all of the Goblins Delights from Rossetti's most luscious of poems.

Here is a list of all the fruits the Goblins tempt the two girls in the poem with:

Apples Russet and dun,
quinces,
Lemons
oranges,
cherries,
Melons
raspberries,
peaches,
mulberries,
cranberries,
Crab-apples,
dewberries,
Pine-apples,
blackberries,
Apricots,
strawberries; -
Pomegranates,
Dates
bullaces,
Rare pears
greengages,
Damsons
bilberries,
gooseberries,
barberries,
Figs,
Citrons,
plums
melons
grapes without one seed:
currants

There is also mention of:
mead,
lilies,
wormwood.

Some of these will present more of a challenge than others (dates???! - pineapples????!!!) but hey, lets give it a go. I already have a lemon tree and the previous owner left a rather nice grape vine in a pot so we are well on the way I reckon.

Whether I can do better than the hopefuls at Hampton Court remains to be seen - and it could take a few years to find out.

So wish me luck - and please - tell me how to grow melons!!

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Farewell to all that

The days of the weed growing are numbered as I am moving to Stroud (of Rupert Burdock fame) and I will have to abandon the anotment after three years of adventures (or is it four, I am useless at tracking time). 

I have been so excited by working with the land and the girls that I am looking for ways to pursue the same interests in Stroud once I can get more settled there.

A Pensford Field committee member spoke to me after the recent work day and explained the plans for the back of the studio. I was sad to hear it will be lost in their plans to build a shed, but I am hopeful that some of the learning can be brought forward into the planned garden for the front of the space. He said it would likely be winter before anything actually happens. If this is so I am in contact with someone who may be able to continue monitoring the patch over the summer.

I had a lovely send off from the fantastic Girls Art Club, who threw me a leaving do recently. I have seen them learn a great deal through joining me in my own efforts to explore the plants as they grew up behind the studio of their own accord.

It was great to see how the girls changed through being at the club, the garden and the field - from being often quite timid with nature, to being very confident - from squealing and running away from worms to handling all kinds of bugs and wanting to look after them and 'put them in the bug hotel' which I built into the side of the garden. They started out very wary of the nettles and now they just grab their gloves and come out and get digging. They teach each other as well which is great.


What I have learnt from the experience is that working with wild plants or edible weeds, (with a few more familiar herbs thrown in) can be a very exciting way to bring kids into contact with nature and to help them build confidence in it. The girls developed a real sense of ownership and even have begun planting things they brought from home. They've made suggestions and it has been a great way for them to learn what various wild plants taste like and also about the relationships of wild plants with bugs and other wildlife. Its a way of seeing our links with nature rather than the separation, eg. how we and bees can both eat the same plants.

Parents have also got involved with tasting.  One girls' father has offered to do some work there such as clearing space, digging, etc.

Working with weeds is very low maintenance. If kids trample them, they rebound easily; if they are neglected over the summer, they thrive; if there is a drought, fat hen keeps it looking green and if there is rain, an abundance of variety springs up. There are almost no costs - a pair of gardening gloves is handy, and a trowel - but no pots, no compost, no watering, is needed. It also benefits wildlife: in late winter and early spring, the bees can feed on the alkanet, providing honey for the beekeepers later on, and the unuusual flavours of the plants keep everyone entertained (if not always delighted) throughout the year. The diversity of plants provides a resource for wide range of creatures, without providing enough for any bug to take over. In short, this garden to me represents a great learning opportunity at the axis of human and wild life.

I must thank Pensford Field Environmental Trust for offering me this fantastic opportunity to explore edible wild plant gardening. Ive enjoyed it and learnt so much and I will be carrying on.

I hope the committee will consider doing some transplanting of plants and or soil, as there are quite an interesting mix of plants there now, including lavender, sage, several types of mint, fennel, as well as the wild things like Alexanders, burdock, woad, thistles, horseradish, oregano, poppies, fat hen, etc. I do hope that some of the life of the wild garden will continue around the studio, for the sake of the kids, the wildlife, and everyone.