18 February 2014

the secret delights of st mary's community garden in haggerston

When I first moved to Hackney five years ago, one of the first things I did was to look up a community gardening project so that I could keep a connection to flowers and plants and the changing seasons. I found St Mary's Secret Garden, joined up and have been volunteering there ever since. 

Sometimes, I ask if I can take some flowers home to paint. These ones almost painted themselves onto the page. I loved the mad  floppiness of the Rudbeckias and the late autumn messiness of everything. Flowers from a florist are just not the same at all.

Besides the flowers, I get so much out of volunteering at St Mary's, where I work with adults with learning difficulties.

Last week I planted onions with G, who suffers from bouts of depression in between stretches of great joviality. It took us two hours and we planted three rows, but it isn't all about hurrying to get things done in horticultural therapy. 

The white fly settling like teeny snowflakes on the cabbages, the   cold, wintry soil in our hands, bursts of exuberant song courtesy of P, a group member who loves dancing with his rake as opposed to gathering up leaves. G laughs at the rake dancing, but keeps working, taking great care with each tiny onion. It's good to be out there, planting and helping others to be outside.

Much as I like to be painting in my studio, and wrangling a wacom pen, a day at St Mary's is a good break from all of that.

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