April is the cruelest month, Breeding Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain.
Winter kept us warm, covering
Earth in forgetful snow, feeding
A little life with dried tubers.
I, The Burial of the Dead
T.S. Eliot (Poet)
T.S. Eliot obviously had his reasons for writing ‘April is the cruellest month…’ in his Wasteland poem, but it is in a puzzling and ambiguous style to remind us of Spring. In reality, it is one of the most upbeat time of the year to get outdoors in better Spring weather. It is a time when gardens are in need of some tender-loving-care (TLC) after the long and cold winter months, and so do us for our own well-being and happiness. It is exciting and compulsory to get the lawn cut, give the garden borders a new lease of life, renew with new soil, plants and ornamental features.
I have always liked gardens and gardening. I used to help my parents maintain our garden at home and still like spotting tropical and exotic plants from the Caribbean on my wanders around London and on holiday. There some adorable gardens in the United Kingdom and Kew Gardens is am must if you are looking for garden inspiration, a place to picnic and for relaxing for the whole family.
In March for the last few years, we have had a head start with gardening in my neighbourhood with a borough wide ‘Spring Clean’ Day. Residents usually register online with the council and are given equipment for cleaning, free compost and plants for public green spaces. The social and health benefits for this scheme is amazing for an urban environment, where residents can engage in their local communities and environment. The results are that residents take ownership of these green areas and a positive dialogue with the local authority is in place. With this engagement in the community, we have frequent input into consultations and decisions that may affect our neighbourhood. Some residents have adopted some free spaces with gorgeous guerrilla gardening! Residents have so far transformed an alleyway, facilitated outdoor street art and changed our air quality with closure of a rat-run roadway. These little initiatives have enhanced our areas and created pride in our neighbourhood.
I do have herbs, plants, and trees already in my garden and have been a keen urban gardener for about 20 years. Around springtime, I also start planting seeds for my favourite vegetables – such as courgette and herbs. I love planting courgette as it is easy to grow, get crops all throughout the summer, and I have my own supply of courgette flowers! The Italians have been cooking and eating it for years – the flowers are delicious. I have made so many dishes with courgettes as you may have noticed on social media! …But I am not apologising as this year there was a courgette shortage crisis. So I am very pleased that it is not some sort of silly habit of mine. This spring, I am being more ambitious with planting tomatoes, French beans and more plants.
I have an apple tree that looks beautiful in spring with blossoms now but later in the year I look forward to making apple crumble, apple pie, tart tatin, chutney or anchar from the apples in the tree. One day, I would like to plant another apple tree too.
My mother-in-law is an amazing gardener and used to have a very self-sufficient garden. She is a bit older now and doesn’t plant a lot but she used to produce and bottle her own year-round supply of tomato passata from her own garden! Together with her home grown basil – the Italian ragu sauce was even more amazing!
One social media Springtime success story is the humble bluebell in woods as described by the National Trust. If like me you have seen bluebells shared in Facebook, Twitter and blogs – it is one of the greatest pleasures that you would find for free in Spring. I found out on Twitter that there is a Bluebell woods near me in Wanstead, and went there last year for the photos below. I am hoping to go there again with two friends soon. It is magical to see the ground covered in colour! One request they ask for – is for visitors to stick to the pathways as the plants are adorable but delicate. If you are a professional or amateur photographer, the bluebells in April really is a must to see.
The gardening business and industry are vast with large garden centres, independent businesses and markets too. IBIS world reports that Flowers and Plant Growing have had some recently “growth after some barren years” in the United Kingdom. At work, we frequently get gardening startups coming into to do research for their business. A few weeks ago, I visited the Columbia Road Flower Market in Tower Hamlets. I have been there several times before, and it is best to go on a Sunday morning about 9am. Parking is restricted but you can get the bus or public transport. The flower and plant stalls are amazing to see with cockney stallholders. The shops along the sides are interesting and quirky – and you can grab a light brunch or lunch. There was definitely a street party feel with buskers outside on that sunny morning when I went recently. It was also Palm Sunday and there was an Easter Procession with a Scottish bagpiper and traditional donkey. A few years ago there were lots of Pearly Kings and Queens for an annual event. What is obviously changed is the large number of tourists that visit the market and you can tell by the various European languages heard. They like me, were taking lots of photos of the flower market to share.
There is a cluster of garden centres in Crews Hill, just inside the M25 in Enfield. If you are looking for that hard-to-find plant or garden ornament – do take make a visit but you may need a car for all the plants you buy!
This Spring, I am keeping busy with our residents and volunteers in my neighbourhood to create a small urban community garden next to a busy high street in time for the launch of the E17 Art Trail with a ‘Tree of Life’ submission. We also have long term plans for this green space and will be working with our fabulous councillors to suggest ideas. We are actively sourcing plants and objects for the STEAM theme for the art trail, and excited for the long term plans to make this a little oasis of calm and beauty on a busy urban high street.
As ongoing research has shown, the environmental and ecological benefits for gardening is for our own well-being, fitness, mental health and sustainability. The beauty, colours and gifts of flowers, plants and trees are great for us whatever the time of year. They are beautiful and naturally made…sometimes with help from us. April is just the beginning of this happy warmer season in colder northern hemispheres, and let’s remember with appreciation and anticipation that the best is yet to come with Spring and Summer blooms and fruits.