My blooming experience on Marks Gate Estate
On 29th May we hosted our second ‘Artist Takeover Day’ at the Creative Café on Marks Gate. Local residents worked with artist and garden designer Errol Reuben Fernandes to spread colour throughout Marks Gate estate by making and casting seed bombs that will burst into bloom in the coming weeks and greening up the grey with plant based installations. Read his experiences of the day:
I was really excited to be invited to participate in one of the Creative Café on Marks Gate ARTIST TAKEOVER days. I visited the Marks Gate estate for the first time back in April and met with artist Sadia Ur-Rehman, Marcus Ramtohul, a few local residents and a representative from the council.
I work as a garden designer, artist and therapist and for me there are often aspects of my work that overlap. I decided that a community landscape project would be a nice idea for the takeover day. Reclaiming barren parts of the estate using seed bombing and planting up areas to provide contemporary blocks of colour and year-round interest. I have been interested in gardening from a young age, I was encouraged to grow flowers and vegetables by my mum and was particularly interested in plants that attracted wildlife to the garden. I have early memories of swapping tadpoles for ferns with my next-door neighbour in order to build a wildlife garden. I like to inspire others and offer a garden coaching service for those who like the idea of gardening but don’t know where to start. I am always keen to get everyone growing; Digging over even a small patch of ground is surprisingly good exercise and just having contact with the soil is good for your soul.
Seed bombing is becoming increasingly popular, particularly in urban built up areas. Compost, clay and flower seeds are mixed together to create small Ping-Pong sized balls that are filled with potential. These are cast onto barren ground and if the conditions are right they will burst into floral bloom and spread smiles across the faces of all those who see them. We did need to seek permission in order to do this on Marks Gate Estate and all the plants are either annuals (live for only one year) or non-evasive species. It was my hope that through participation in this activity, the local residents would gain a greater sense of connection and ownership with their Estate. The children from the estate loved getting messy making the seed bombs and we plotted where they were cast on a map of the Estate.
Seed bombing requires patients, the seeds take time to germinate and grow before flowering and so I also wanted to landscape an area with the community in order to provide something instant. I carefully selected perennial plants (plants that will continue to flower year after year) that are drought tolerant, low maintenance and that reflect the diversity of the community in some way. All of the plants came from the Rural Activity Centre in Hillingdon who provide educational and supported employment for adults with additional needs. The final selection will provide a haze of blue and bronze in front of the community centre and include Verbena Bonariensis from Brazil, Perovskia (Russian Sage) from Afghanistan, Stipa Tenuissima from Mexico, Eryngium Planum from South-eastern Europe and Asia and Helichrysum Italicum (Curry plant) from the Mediterranean.
Marcus, Jeanette, Carla and Coby helped me to cut away some turf and dig over the ground ready for planting. We added lots of compost to give the plants a good start and children from the estate joined us with their parents to help layout and plant the area. They were an enthusiastic crowd and the planting looked fantastic. Many of the residents said they would water and help tend the border and it felt like lots of friendships were formed over the course of the day.