Urban meadows, green roofs and tyre gardens

This post has been brewing for a while, but it took a few recent delightful and chance discoveries to bring together a few scattered ideas for a blog into a more coherent whole.

The first chance discovery, down a side road in Streatham I’d never been down before and haven’t since, was several months ago, and I’ve been longing for a chance to post it.

It was this lush green sedum roof on top of a garden shed (unusually, in a front garden). It was so gorgeous I must have stood and gawped at it for 5 minutes at least.

Green garden shed roof

Green garden shed roof

I’m not sure I’ve seen a green roof with so much variety and colour – a real treat, especially in a humble suburban garden. I thought excitedly ‘ooh, I’ll blog about this‘ and then proceeded to see NO more green roofs anywhere, or anything even remotely similar, so the picture sat in my photo stream for several months, waiting for an opportunity to be used.

I had been hearing about a green roof initiative on a row of otherwise unremarkable shops in Herne Hill, but it is best visible looking down from the train line, and I haven’t had a chance yet to take a picture of it.

Then, on a trip to Brockley to visit a friend, I was stunned by the planting around the station there – I knew that there had been improvements and landscaping going on, but I did not expect to see this beautiful meadow on a railway embankment where you’d normally see cans of lager and crisp wrappers…

Wildflower meadow, Brockley

Wildflower meadow, Brockley

Near the station entrance, they have created a more formal bed of mixed planting – I assume selected on the basis of being hardy and vandal-proof, based on the presence of some rather prickly and evergreen plants, but still plenty of variety in colour, shape and height, and the overall effect was very impressive.

Formal planting outside Brockley Station

Formal planting outside Brockley Station

What I like most of all is that someone – as it turns out, Brockley Cross Action Group – has bothered to think about this, and take some time to make it nice, when it could just have been some woodchippings and a few tired shrubs chucked in as an afterthought by the urban planners and landscapers. People of Brockley, you’re very lucky to have this.

After my Brockley envy, I went to Brockwell Park, and found, to my delight, an even more lavish flower meadow which has been planted outside the Lido.

Brockwell lido flower meadow

Brockwell lido flower meadow

I honestly don’t think photos could do justice to the colours – the sheer impact of the red poppies against the red brick wall was the first impression I had, but then other colours started to jump out – blue of cornflower, yellow of corn marigold, white of ox-eye daisy, purple of vetch – and more.

The work, by various community groups associated with the Park and Herne Hill, obviously creates a scene very pleasing to the human eye, but also a significant new habitat for bees and other pollinating insects – and I was glad to see several bees bumbling around the flowers as I watched.

Finally, it was just yesterday I saw the final piece of urban landscaping which I realised would be the perfect conclusion to this blog.

On a housing estate just down the road from us, I’d recently seen these tyres nailed up on the wall of the carpark. At first I thought it was some kind of urban art installation….

Tyre gardens, West Norwood

Tyre gardens, West Norwood

…but when they were painted green, I thought ‘Oh – they’re going to use them for planting!’ – and that’s exactly what has happened.

Taking a look up close, they are looking pretty well established already…..

Tyre gardens up close

Tyre gardens up close

…and even from a distance, although the wall itself is still shabby and blighted by graffiti, the tyres really are helping to make an otherwise dull environment a little more bright and interesting.

And that’s what made me finally realise the point of this blog – just to admire the effort some people and groups have made to add a little (or a lot) of greenery where previously there was none, and to praise them for making London nicer for us all. Thank you.

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