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· Hannah Durham

Islington In Bloom 2018

Cullinan Studio's Guerrilla Garden

If you wander down Regents Canal you may come by our Cullinan Studio Canalside Garden. During the warmer months it is awash with blue irises, pink and cream hollyhocks, white buddleia and a couple of violet wisterias, with butterflies and bees dancing between. During the cooler months you notice the thriving fig tree, a growing blueberry plant, a selection of herbs in our two raised beds, and this winter we are planning a white bed of snowdrops sprinkled along the towpath.

Peculiar in shape, our garden is 55 metres long and a ruler length in depth. It is a small slither of exposed ground between the Regents Canal towpath and our studio building, which is a three-storey Victorian warehouse with a locally listed brick facade. We moved into our office in 2012 and since then we have been gradually creating our guerilla garden.

It began with the creation of a bench, made of concrete shelves from our previous studio that we made over twenty-five years ago, and since we have extended the garden west towards the Narrow Boat pub.

We have a garden team in the office which cares for it throughout the year, an activity that includes watering (using the canal water), trimming, weeding and litter picking. Our efforts have been rewarded with an Islington In Bloom Silver Gilt award for two consecutive years, in the category of Best Forgotten Corner. 

Concrete shelves from our previous office find a new life as benches in our towpath garden.

Shockingly, Islington has the lowest ratio of open space to built-up area of any London borough, and second least nationwide. We see our garden as a way to begin to mitigate this and give something back to our local community. 

Our modest strip of garden attracts much attention with many people stopping and commenting on the plants, taking photos, sitting on our bench to relax and even being the backdrop of a student model photo shoot! It is enjoyed by all that pass by. 

At the Islington in Bloom awards ceremony, I was touched by how many people are doing the same, and by how much joy it gives the gardeners as well as those that experience the garden. Gardening is something which we can all enjoy and appreciate whatever class or age.

We sat at a table with a family whose young children had nurtured a tree pit outside their home, creating an oasis of life and colour. They quite rightly won an award and told of their enjoyment of caring for their miniature garden around a tree they have affectionately named Terence. 

We encourage everyone to get (guerrilla) gardening!

Fig tree and hollyhocks

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