the Triangle Garden was the cornerstone of the Street Garden Project. at the eastern end of the street, it was bigger than the others, running alongside the house, giving it a deeper field of perspective. If we could transform this overgrown patch of grass, we’d anchor down this New Eden, and keep working along from there.
Step One: we’d better approach the homeowner.
by this point, the earlier work along the street is apparent, with me working along, digging and planting a familiar sight; and my patter is getting polished.
‘hope I’m not disturbing you… we’re involved in an art project, doing all the gardens along the street… no, no charge, no obligation…’
ah, the human element: ever the joker in the deck. once they figure out that you mean it, no tricks, no charge, well, why not? this becomes easier and easier as the project visibly progresses.
so, the resident family Parma, Hansi and Shilpa happily agree, and off we go.
Dig Dig Dig
the foundation of any garden is getting the right soil. our first task is to break up this near-impervious clay on which all of London is founded (a feat of clay…).
I must have dug over that whole blessed patch of God’s earth four separate times.
‘you like to dig!’ says Hansi.
Dig Dig Dig
DIG DIG DIG
once to get rid of the grass and break up the soil.
once to dig in the tonne of sharp sand we’ve had delivered, to break down the clay.
once to dig in the truckload of leaf mould that Phil-the-Green has so kindly helped me collect from the local park (the collected leaves of autumn, composting away). that’s the organic element of a rich soil.
once more, to mix it all together and smooth it out, and, yes, as Hansi said, ‘cos I like to dig. what a soothing exercise, once you find the rhythm of lean-push-lift-turn. I used to be a regular at the gym and at the jogging track for years and years, in the happy state of it being not an effort but a release. digging fits the same category.
once the ground is dug and raked, let us find the outline of the garden itself, meaning laying out the paths and beds.
one always wishes to take advantage of the materials that come to hand: this is the art of recycling.
the concrete we needed to smash up and get out of the way becomes the base for the raised beds, giving some contour to the place. the paths profit from the York stone we’d excavated from beneath the garbage further down the street – beautiful (beautiful, and expensive, were we not recycling).
all this activity makes us the hotspot on the street, people come to lean on the wall, observe, question and comment. this adds to the fun: Life is a Carnival, especially when the little kids come to help. now that’s Action.
the outline starts to take form: although the beds were still empty, the flow of grey stone path and dark soil patches find a harmony. the bones of the piece, as it were. in gardening this is as satisfying as finding the DNA of a drawing, print or sculpture.
now the soil is loose, rich and well-composted: it’s a sensual experience to crumble it in your hands.
next, to add the colour to the piece: flower time. once again, we find an illustration of our epigram – ‘all manner of eventualities arise to aid one, which would never otherwise have occurred’.
friend Pierre, a professional gardener, has been monitoring a flow of untold hundreds of bedding plants for the professional gardens of which he is in charge. inevitably they over-order, and the surplus is diverted our way: an essential resource, enough mature flowers to fill in our outline of path and bed, line and space.
finally, as part of the link-the-street-together-into-one-harmonious-unit concept, we build an arch over the drive, planned to disappear under a Hanging Garden of Willesden Green (here we lean on the carpentry skills of Chris-the-Cabby).
and voila, the Triangle Garden, a Magic Act of Transformation.