RHS Britain in Bloom

Britain in Bloom

Residents to grow their own security walls

Surrounding some of the UK’s cities’ most unappealing urban blight; wire-mesh security fencing doesn’t fill many hearts with glee. However the green-fingered volunteers at Moseley in Bloom found a novel solution for one of their offending sites - vertical vegetable screen planting.

The group wanted to lessen the visual impact of a derelict car showroom and petrol station forecourt awaiting redevelopment. Situated on a main arterial road into Birmingham, the site had been fenced off, but suffered the usual break-ins, broken windows, vandalism and graffiti.

How an eyesore became a positive talking point

Led by Glenn Fraser, a local garden designer and member of the Moseley in Bloom team, the group used the 2m (61/2ft) high fencing as a support for runner beans and climbing annuals. 'We knew there’d be a delay until the site was developed as they wanted to build a Tesco and there was lots of local resistance,' he said. 'So we approached the developer and then got started. As the plants flourished, the eyesore gradually changed to become a positive talking point in the community. We were also able to provide Moseley with beans; we must have harvested at least 500lb last summer!'

To provide coverage for the entire perimeter, 40 large plastic barrels were recycled from the printing industry, covered with hessian and filled with locally-sourced topsoil and organic compost. These, along with several existing beds around the site, were planted with a mixture of nasturtiums, runner beans (‘Enorma’, ‘Polestar’ and ‘Scarlet Emperor’ cultivars), morning glory annual climber and Mimulus, climbing courgettes (‘Tromboncino’), Thunbergia (also known as black-eyed Susan) and beautifully-scented night phlox. By high summer the walls were alive, cloaked with dense green growth, colour and scent.

Spring blooms took their place in 2010, with more than 1,500 wallflowers and tulips planted by volunteers in autumn 2009.

Thinking about the future

Working on such a site has its drawbacks: you never know how long you’ve got before the developers arrive. However the group are realistic about the future. 'We’ve planted bulbs for this spring but we hear the bulldozers will be in by the middle of the year,' said fellow volunteer, Carol Miller. 'It’ll be a shame but it’s been great fun putting it all together as a team. We’ve already found another site we’ll be moving on to a newly cleared patch outside a sheltered housing block that needs a bit of work. We’ll be helping a few of the residents to grow vegetables there and we hope we’ll get the same levels of support from the community.'

Moseley in Bloom is an award-winning community gardening group.

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