by Susan Sheehan, IEL Director
Last month I was fortunate enough to spend an afternoon on Angell Town with Simon Ghartey and some local and not-so-local volunteers installing a genuine RHS Chelsea garden, direct from the Flower Show, on a green patch at the heart of estate.
Residents from the estate were buzzing with excitement. Antoinella Prempeh, who lives opposite the garden, was beaming. “It such a positive change for us. This is a ‘top notch’ garden – something that you would normally only see in Kensington or Chelsea is here on my doorstep”.
Every plant from the Chelsea show garden has been saved. The vegetable patch, a short walk away from the flower garden, is filled with tomatoes, chillis and much more. Jasmine and Jada Atiemo said “with the the help of neighbours and other volunteers we managed to transform a weedy tangled mess into a lovely vegetable patch.”
The only part of the garden that did not come was the potting shed made out of an old container, because the residents didn’t want it, says the RHS.
Simon Ghartey, founder of social enterprise Progress, will continue to run gardening clubs as he has done in the area for nine years, building communities around gardens as they take responsibility for tending plants and open spaces.
Local vicar, Rosemarie Mallett, said “The garden is a symbol of the community creating a better environment for themselves through engaging with organisations like the RHS. It wouldn’t be here if people didn’t say they wanted and if people hadn’t got involved, with Simon’s help.”
For Simon, life has been extremely busy and exciting over the last few weeks. He and some of the residents helped install the show garden at Chelsea, and then attended the Show itself where they found themselves posing for photos many times over. “We were the celebrities’, said Simon. Perhaps the biggest celebrities were Taveesha Steele, who got to present flowers to the Queen and Joshua Homiah, who will help maintain the garden, and was featured on Gardeners World.
After all the excitement, Simon then worked with residents and volunteers to bring the garden back to Angell Town. Around 100 residents from the estate were involved and got their hands dirty!
Guy Barter, Chief Horticulturalist of the RHS was visiting at the same time as me. He has some horticultural tips that include ‘editing’ the planting scheme. Most of the plants are perennial but it is worth collecting seeds and adding fresh plants in from time to time, he said, and he recommended adding in some popular herbs such as rosemary and thyme to complement the lavender.
The garden will continue to be supported by the RHS through their ‘It’s Your Neighbourhood’ scheme that provides support from RHS garden advisors. This scheme is available to all community gardens.
A final word from another resident and member of the Resident Management Board, Christine Porter. “The garden is very inspirational. Lots of residents are already involved in the vegetable growing and the new flower garden has brought out people I haven’t seen for a while – so it makes me feel that it’s really worthwhile”.