With the Summer finally emerging, many of us have taken to the many and varied outdoor spaces that Brighton and Hove has to offer. I am in the privileged position of living in Saltdean in Brighton, at the foothill the South Downs and with a view of the sea (on tip toes from our back bedroom!). We are also very lucky to have a very long uphill garden…. However, our garden has seen better days. When we moved to Saltdean from Kemptown last year, the garden was unloved, overgrown, with weeds to waist height. Something had to be done.
In an effort to try to rectify the years of neglect, I decided to head down to the ‘Seedy Sunday’ event hosted at the Corn Exchange, which is basically a lovely, local seed swap. I was elbowed by a fair few aggressively committed gardening visitors as they attempted to get first dibs on the best seed swapping opportunities, I spotted my gardening idol James Wong in the crowd, and then I blindly purchased a couple of purple seed potatoes without knowing anything about them. But then, as I contemplated legging it from the throng of gardening over-enthusiasts, I noticed a little stall run by Royal Pavilion Garden volunteers. They were selling seeds collected from the Royal Pavilion Garden to raise funds for the upkeep of the Gardens. I chatted with the volunteers about what seeds to choose to take home to Saltdean, but soon realised that many of the varieties that worked in the Pavilion Gardens would also work in Saltdean because of the similar conditions of both (e.g. light / soil type / wind factor etc). Exciting!
My colleague Su (strategic lead for heritage, Our Future City) had told me some months before this moment that the Pavilion Gardens were artistically designed around lots of differing shades of plant and tree greenery… blue greens, yellow greens, white greens…all positioned in such a way that never is the same type of green overlapping. Beautiful.. subtle… inspired! It was really the first time that I had fully appreciated the artistry of garden design: of rhythm, repetition, style, context/purpose, heritage, culture… It set off a light bulb in my mind: “I can bring a bit of the Pavilion to my home”. I therefore bought some Papaver somniferum (Opium poppy, to you and I), Nigella damascena (Love in a mist) and some Lunaria annua (Honesty) to begin growing my own.
What I hadn’t appreciated when I bought those seeds is that I was about to face some challenging times in terms of ill health. Those seeds (and the other kitchen garden seeds I purchased the same day) have become the basis for my own personal recovery through a challenging time. How very powerful it is to have planted a part of Brighton’s cultural heritage in my back garden, to be brought together by a joint and elemental human narrative of planting, growing, developing, and creating. Planting those seeds and nurturing the seedlings into plants has been essential to my path to wellbeing: it kept alive my link to the cultural heart of my City at a time when I couldn’t physically visit it, it gave me the chance to express my creativity through garden design and it allowed me to be creative, productive and mindful at a time when I couldn’t face picking up my flute or my paintbrush. And how lucky am I that I got to take a little bit of the Pavilion home with me for years to come!
And finally here’s my photo plant update (right). The photos are the Pavilion plants, with my ‘wannabe’ seedling photos next to them! The Poppies are doing nicely, the Love in a Mist is growing very strongly inside and I’m currently ‘hardening them off’ to brave the outside soon. However, my Honesty isn’t doing too well at the moment (but I’m trying not to read too much meaning into that).
Senior Producer, Our Future City (Director of Hand on Heart Arts)
Find out more about the Pavilion Gardens here…