Sunday, 10 July 2016
There were blackbirds nesting in the jasmine when I visited the bijou Highgate Day Centre garden. I heard one swooping in and saw the jasmine shiver as its wings fluttered through the leaves, but, alas, didn't manage to capture the moment on film however still I stood - such is often the way with the best things in life.
Blackbirds nest in this garden every June, usually in the jasmine on the opposite wall - maybe they want a good spot to watch the volunteers making their final preparations for the garden opening - but this year they had to be flexible on nest location. Scaffolding covered their usual choice - an unfriendly chancer had snuck in at night and made off with the roof lead, but they ignored the very attractive bird box which the Centre users had thoughtfully provided for them and chose another jasmine instead.
The tiny courtyard garden has been transformed by Ben Ledden, the gardener, and those who have volunteered to help him. Benches that looked past their sell-by date have been reclaimed, cleaned and painted lime green and magenta and they are weighed down with the propagated plants the volunteers have successfully learned to grow. The jasmine has been transmogrified many times over and sold in cuttings to adorn neighbouring gardens in Camden.
Ben and his merry band of volunteers were proud to show off their hard work and effort for their 2016 opening. Ben is admiringly described as 'our Monty Don', and he is the orchestrator of the garden's development, constantly planning new funding sources and plantings. Two gardening sessions take place each week and the tranquility of the garden is enjoyed by all the users, many of whom can be found enjoying a cup of tea here and a calm moment of reflection. A woodland planting of ferns, hostas and Fatsia japonica is the newest arrangement, under the jasmine.
A yellow climbing rose is at its best in June and is complemented by a lilac blue clematis - perfect companions, alongside oriental poppies, hostas and globe thistles.
And here is a close-up. Maybe June and July roses are always my favourite of all those that adorn gardens in summer.
Highgate Day Centre offers a range of services for local people with severe mental health issues. Funded by Camden Council and the NHS, the range of activities they have kept going during these difficult times of austerity cuts is impressive. Ben aims to develop a group of mentors to help new service users in the future. On Open Garden Squares Weekend, there was an art studio offering a botanical art workshop, part of a trend of gardens opening offering extra activities for visitors.
And on my visit, I was given this lovely sketch to take home with me.
Along a narrow, shaded passageway off the courtyard, an insect hotel has been built near a small pond.
The pond is in need of rejuvenating and reclaiming from the bamboo which continually threatens to engulf it, and the Centre has applied for a grant from the Metropolitan Parks and Gardens Association as part of its next stage of development. We wish it well.
Over the past two years, Ben has successfully led a team which has taken on an unpromising, tiny space and created a beautiful sanctuary. An impressive achievement for the whole community!