On the 18th and 19th July, the Jewellery Quarter will be holding its first JQ Festival to celebrate the opening of Golden Square. As part of the Festival there will be an Open Studio Trail, where visitors can visit all sorts of craftmakers, designers, jewellers and architects to see them at work and ask for advice and tips of the trade. I work from home and so opening up to the public was not a practical option but towards the end of May the idea of a pop-up garden was mooted. By early June the Open Studios organiser had found me a courtyard tucked away behind a black door on Pitsford Street and I was part of the Open Studio Trail.
I was delighted to get the support and sponsorship of two dealers in reclaimed and vintage - Moseley Gifts and Gardens and The Barn at Studley. Both are a treasure trove of items from tin baths, furniture, chimney pots and much more. The ideal source of items to match my theme.
I was really pleased to find these ladders which make a colourful and quirky alternative to trellis reflecting the industrial setting of the garden, the primary colours provide a cheerful contrast against a white painted wall.
Having only containers and pots for your plants can seem restrictive and yes some plants sulk in pots and they all need more love and attention as they relay on you for food and water. But you can have lots of fun using whatever you can find from old tin cans to boots and unlike the garden-bound gardener you can create the ideal conditions for the plants you like in their very own pot, sitting drought lovers and water-babies side by side.
The JQ is full of beautiful buildings being renovated and repurposed creating a vibrant, eclectic eco-chic community and it's time to do the the same with our outside spaces too. It's been a mad few days getting ready but we have finally finished setting up and I can relax at least for a little while. The moment of truth will be seeing the reaction of visitors tomorrow to our newly-loved outside space...
The JQ is full of tiny courtyards, roof spaces and balconies; most of which are unused and unloved and many residents are renting and so unable or reluctant to invest in longer-term roots : ) With little money to play with, the idea of recycling, up-cycling and reclaiming objects to create a garden seemed like the perfect solution and so 'The Room Outside' began to develop as an idea. Hopefully showing how we can all make the most of these secret spaces and create our own personalised urban oasis. Old furniture and household items are re-purposed and filled with living colour and everything in the pop-up garden can be taken away when the owner moves on.
Today is Earth Day when across the world organisations and individuals come together to celebrate and "promote a healthy environment and a peaceful, just, sustainable world". The Washington Institute has published a score card highlighting four key areas of concern for 2015, so what can we do at home to help?
1. Make our outside spaces wildlife friendly
One in four species of birds, mammals, reptiles, amphibians and fish are on the verge of extinction or extinct. We can do our bit for our local species by making our gardens or outside space more welcoming for wildlife. The RSPB campaign Make a Home offers lots of excellent tips for making your space wildlife friendly.
Even the smallest balcony can offer food and shelter for birds and insects. Wildlife friendly does not have to be untidy, a formal pond will attract wildlife and many flowers adored by the most discerning gardener are equally loved by bees and other insects.
2. Use your harvest
One person in six alive today is chronically hungry. I am not sure that the keenest grow-your-own enthusiast can solve this one but there are things we can do to help reduce food waste and local charities. Maybe you have fruit trees but are unable to pick the fruit or it's simply too much for you to use. Locally Northfield Ecocentre run Urban Harvest which collects unwanted fruit and vegetables and redistribute them to local charities, schools and a local Community Café, the rest is used to create lovely juices and preserves. Thousands of tonnes of fruit goes unused in our city gardens so why not help reduce the waste. Or if you haven't got any surplus why not help by volunteering with the harvest.
3. Buy local and recycle
Between between 1970 and today 160 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide have been released into the atmosphere, that's more than in the previous 200 years. We can all help by buying plants and sourcing our hard-landscaping materials locally. There are many small plant nurseries which offer a larger and more interesting range of locally grown plants than you will find in the big Garden Centres. When re-designing a planting scheme or garden I always try and re-use or recycle what I can. If it isn't wanted or doesn't fit with the new scheme then there is nearly always someone who can use it, try advertising on your local Freecycle or Streetlife.
4. Celebrate our green spaces
The final scorecard fact is that the Earth's population has almost doubled since 1970, and in the same period the share of cropland per person has almost halved. I had to think laterally on this one as I am not sure that I can help with either of these : ) But the message I think we should take is how lucky we are to have public and private green spaces to enjoy. We should celebrate this and ensure that we are making the most of whatever outside space we have - every little bit of green we can create in our cities helps reduce pollution, support wildlife and provides enjoyment not only to us but everyone one who passes by - guess which is my outside space?
If you would like to celebrate Earth Day but like me are at work today, then why not go along to the free Birmingham Botanical Gardens Earth Day at the Gardens on Saturday 25th April. This year it also commemorates the 70th Anniversary of the end of World War II highlighting the role of Victory Gardens from their design, propaganda and the impact on gardening today.