Flowers In Pots For All
The inner city is not an easy place to indulge green fingers, but there are many reasons why we all need to think about this. It’s not even just about fresh, healthy produce; there’s a really important issue of sustainability in all this. Let’s start with the hesitant late-night gardener in Tesco.
Late night shopping (feeling very virtuous because we’d just been to a dance and inter-active media event at Unity Theatre and had even stayed for the discussion afterwards)… so it had to be Tesco Old Swan if we wanted bread and coffee for the morning.
Inevitably, I gravitate to the plants and flowers stall – where else but the supermarket would you be tempted to buy seeds for weekend gardening at 11 p.m. on Friday night? A woman already there is eyeing a packet of French marigold seeds uneasily. Do I know anything about gardening?, she asks. She is thinking she might grow some flowers in a pot in the back yard
My ‘advice’ is limited by my own inexpertise. Perhaps it’s a good idea to use water-holding gel to guard against neglect of the seedlings (my own major misdeed) and, if a dry patch is likely, nasturtiums are both delightful and very forgiving. We chat on such things for a while and the woman moves on, clutching the marigold seeds doubtfully.
Shops, jobs and flowers for everyone?
Old Swan is a part of town which faces many challenges. Much of the housing stock is derelict Victorian, doubtless magnificent in its prime but now ‘student’ flats, or else back-to-back terrace. The unemployment rate remains high and the educational attainment is well below average. Tesco is the only major store on the area, and a very significant local employer; and it stocks gardening products which, if my late-night encounter is anything to go by, tempt first time green fingers.
None of this justifies the particular business strategies which some say the superstores adopt. But perhaps it does point to a few important considerations about economic development of a run-down area, and it also tells us that people still hope for better – why else buy flower seeds?
And why is there so little that grows in the lives of people in Old Swan? There’s nearby Newsham Park, curently a topic of hot debate amongst those who value green space, and the Edge Lane (Wavertree) Botanic Garden – would that it had the same recognition and status as its contemporaries in e.g. Birmingham! But not much else.
Green fingers from the start
When then can we expect that inner-city chidlren will learn routinely how to grow things at school? When will we start to think carefully about more allotments and other community growing space for grown-ups? In what ways can we help with the active use of gardens and allotments in the city? When will we start to teach children (and their mums and dads) about seasonal, lcaol prodcue? And how can we link the urge to see things grow with wider matters of health, diet and environment?
These are matters of sustainability in the long-term; and if they start from marigolds in a pot from Tesco, that’s an interesting conjunction too.