Bangla Gardens

On my cycle ride to our studio, on the border between Shoreditch
and the City of London, just a few hundred meters away from the newest
skyscrapers, I pass through some of the country’s most forward thinking and audacious

They embody the manifesto hailed by post-peak oil gardener
activists. These tiny gardens are so
perfectly adapted to the dense urban environment and to climate change that their
plentiful harvests laugh at the shade and rain shadows imposed by buildings.

Audaciously borrowing otherwise redundant council owned
land, mostly without asking it appears, these gardeners use adjacent trees or
drain pipes to support climbers and figs, or trellis canopies made of old
bedsteads for their squashes and vines, and unrecognisable spinaches and greens as dense groundcover.
Here are the multi-tiered forest gardens Mark Laurence has asked us asked to
adopt. Here are the Climate Change crops that Mark Diacono advises us to choose
over potatoes and carrots. Ingeniously using only found or recycled
materials the only costs are the seeds and soil improvers.

So who are these innovators nestled amongst the art and
design community in Shoreditch? These are the gardens of the first generation
Bangladeshi community.

They’re not aware that their common sense is our avant-garde.
For them it’s never made sense to leave bare soil between rows of spinach as it
means more weeding, watering and essential nutrients washing away. They
appreciate how precious every patch of land is and fulfil it’s potential in a
way that we’ll have to mimic as urban environments become further populated.

I say first generation Bangladeshi as the next generation on
the whole prefer not to be associated with the vegetable gardens of their
parents and grandparents. These teenagers and young professionals see these
admittedly messy gardens, inferring a certain level of poverty, as something
they’d like to escape from.

However, for those of us hoping to
take advantage of the scattered pockets of redundant land throughout the urban
their skills and knowledge are a resource to
harvest .

bangla 1 bangla 2 bangla 3

N.B. Photos taken in
mid November

Templeman Harrison: London Garden Design

  • James English

    Hey Nell, James here from Myddelton.
    I think it’s great that you’ve posted a blog, as discuussion seems to always be productive in some way or another.
    I’ve only been in the horticulture scene for the last 3-4 years, and spend 3 of those years working at a garden centre/nursery. I spent most of/nearly all of my time doing the outside plant related work, and I was solely responsible for watering on my days there.
    This included plants in pots from 9cm bedding/basket sized pots all the way through to 10-11ft Cedrus libani in 85l pots. Every thing that i knew needed to be watered got a good soak that’d last it until my next day on, and the knowledge and experience i gained from doing the task over 3 years enabled me to inform the other staff of what might need topping up whilst i’m away.

    Firstly, I can only say that I strongly agree with what your colleague says about the chilli paste. Using knowledge and experience to decide is the key. It is only careful observation and contemplation, and most likely discussion :) that will enable you to work these things out over time.

    Factors like light levels, water requirements of the plant in its natural habitat, vigour and growth rate of the plant, growing medium, drainage and wind of course are all things that I’d consider when trying to work out how much to water a plant and when. Plus the season as well; deciduous containerised stock will probably onnly need one or two goes throughout the winter months, depending on the windiness of the site. Evergreen things especially conifers will continue to transpire more than most and will need to be watched throughout winter. And the tightness of the plants roots in it’s pot; one of the Cedars we had in Norwich soaked up about 5-6cm of water from a tray beneath it as well as numerous showers from above on a relally hot day because it was slightly rootbound, but well fed. It was the density of the soil around the roots which made it harder to absorb water in a single watering.

    I like the sound of the tap on the clay pot idea, its interesting because we have LOTS of small, medium and large clay pots at Myddelton as was the case in Bowles’ time, all of which containing different Agaves, Yuccas and other succulents. Bryan, who has been there for 25 years seems to think he’s got it pretty sussed on the cactus watering regime, so I might have to compare his thoughs to the tap test…..

    Anyway, I hope you’ve been well Nell, I’m glad I’ve read and commented on this because I didnt even have a hortweek account before! We must arrange a visit either way sometime, I’d like to see Chelsea as it sounds great from what Helen says and as I’ve never been before.

    • Nell Jones

      Hi James

      Great to hear from you! Really appreciate you thoughts on watering – you’ve got 4 years professional experience one me so good to know what you think about it all. It’s funny, at home, I have always watered my containerized plants with no worries at all, but when you are doing it in a professional capacity, you want to get it right and also to know what the best practice is – it’s a completely different feeling.

      I’m at Capel Manor for my PA1/PA6 course in Jan so perhaps I could pop round and see you then? Or perhaps we could do a day at each other’s garden early next year. I know that Nick my Head Gardener knows Andrew so why don’t we organise it? Would be great to see what’s happening at Myddleton – lots happening at Chelsea, that’s for sure!


  • andrew houghton

    Hi Nell
    Where do you start? one of the hardest jobs on a nursery to get right. Little and often is a fairly good rule, but then there are so many factors in between to take into consideration, many of these you have already covered. You will get it, eventually, but it will take years of watering to get a feel for how the plants are, you will see instantly if the plants need water, obvious one is wilting, then there are the colour changes in the leaves, then yellowing leaves, you will see where the dry spots are so you get to know that they will need checking first.
    Its all down to experience and unfortunately that takes time. You will get it though ,my only piece of advice is to look at your plants, watch them grow, they will soon let you know when they want water. Walk through your plants, check the compost, lift the pots, feel the leaves.
    Hope you get it sorted, you will get there in the end.
    Im still learning, I dont suppose I will ever stop. Thats the good thing about this job, full of surprises!!

    • Nell Jones

      Hi Andy

      Sorry it’s taken me a bit of time to reply – I didn’t get a notification that you had commented on my blog. Great advice about walking through the plants and using all my senses – I think I’m realising that whilst I’m learning I need to pay very close attention to them rather than a cursory look (which so far hasn’t resulted in deaths but some pretty impressive pest infestations!)

      Thanks for reading the blog and taking the time to comment.