Our Garden: in the middle of our street

L1220531© Geoff Wilkinson

Thanks to the work of the South Woodford Community Gardeners, it will be hard to walk down George Lane this summer without noticing the floral beauty that bisects the road. Judy Noble tells the story behind their work.

On many a Friday morning when you walk down the high street, you can spy us busy weeding, planting, cutting back and pruning the lovely gardens we are so lucky to have right down the centre of George Lane in South Woodford.

We so enjoy it when you, the local public, come up and tell us how much you too enjoy these gardens. Some of you stay and chat awhile, giving us a chance to straighten our backs, or give us tips and plants you can spare from your own gardens. All are welcome.

We’re gardening on some Monday mornings as well now, and we also garden the five large beds and pavement up to Grove Road on the bridge over the North Circular opposite Waitrose.

Who are we? We didn’t come from thin air, but started from a local initiative through the U3A – the local branch of the University of the Third Age – where people who have mostly retired share their hard-won life experience with others and their local community for free. We apply this to gardening. None of us are experts but we learn from each other and from seeing how the plants grow, and occasionally, don’t. Redbridge Council’s resources have been under pressure and, following a lead from Wanstead, where you may have seen the signs in the beds telling you of the ‘Wanstead Community Gardeners’, we set up our own.

Redbridge Council cuts the grass and initially pulled out some very prickly bushes on the bridge, whose only function seemed to be to catch flying rubbish. The recycling collection also keeps an eye open for our sacks of weeds, and takes them away, but the rest we do. Both Lily House in George Lane and Waitrose generously help by allowing us to fill our watering cans – very useful as the beds get very dry, especially in the summer on the bridge.   

Our aim is to have plants with a range of heights offering something bright, in flower or berry, or lovely varicoloured foliage in all the beds in every season. On the bridge beds, we’re aiming to find enough ground cover plants that love the heat and survive drought, to cover the soil and keep down the weeds that spring up whenever there’s some rain. This will help taller plants to stand out and survive. We’ve pruned and cut back some shrubs that were growing straggly, so that after a little time, they can grow stronger.

We’re constantly weeding, uncovering plants that are struggling to compete and giving them a chance to establish themselves. We don’t use poisons, and like plants that birds and insects also like!

Our plants come from several sources as we have no funds. First, many of us have gardens and split plants that are doing well, or bring seedlings. Different people brought the marigolds and hollyhocks, and now they look after themselves. One of the Wanstead gardeners has helped us here. People who pass do the same, giving plants from their gardens though they have no time to help, and some local businesses make donations. It is all we need, so do please keep it coming.   

The gardens are something living and constantly changing in the middle of our main street. They give us great pleasure, and we hope they put a spring in your step and bring a smile to your face as you pass. And if you’re interested in joining us, you can email us or stop and chat.

To contact the South Woodford Community Gardeners, email southwoodfordgardeners@gmail.com
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