The East London Garden Society

The Voice ‐ May 2017

Comment by Geoff

In certain parts of east London, the installation of public gardens is a disaster waiting to happen but this also occurs in other areas of the City. A good example is the ‘The Garden Bridge’ project, which if it goes ahead will cost about £200m. Whether this is money well spent for public gardens in London is debateable.

I recently wrote an article explaining the failures of Tower Hamlets Homes and their ability to maintain their environmental responsibilities. Experts are available who are well versed in urban design, and most of them are British. It’s therefore a shame that the use of these experts is an anathema to those who decide which person designs public gardens.

Pistachio in Corwainers Garden

It must be a first for London.

Pat and Joy’s pistachio at Corwainers Garden in Hackney has produced flowers and is starting to form nuts. Pat bought the nut about four years ago from the local shop.

They are hoping to make pistachio ice cream. Back to top

Powdery Mildew

You don’t have to be a gardener for long before you become acquainted with the disease called powdery mildew, which creates whitish patches on the leaves of pumpkin and other members of the cucumber family.

To understand how milk sprays, prevent powdery mildew and use them most effectively, you must first understand your enemy. Powdery mildew fungi are present in many environments. Outbreaks can begin from spores spread by being windblown, from rain or the feet of insects and birds. When powdery mildew finds a suitable host plant, it quickly sinks root‐like structures into the cells on the leaf’s surface. There it stays, taking nutrition from the leaf whilst developing a matrix of thread‐like structures over the surface.

For the infected plants, powdery mildew cripples its ability to conduct photosynthesis by blocking out light. Powdery mildew can quickly spread to nearby leaves, so it’s always a good idea to clip out leaves that show early spotting. More than fifty years ago, researchers in Canada discovered that milk sprays could help prevent powdery mildew on tomato and barley. Most recently, a spray made of 40% milk and 60% water was as effective as chemical fungicides in managing powdery mildew. In Australia, milk sprays have proven to be as effective as sulphur and synthetic chemicals in preventing powdery mildew on grapes. In New Zealand, milk did a top‐rate job of suppressing powdery mildew in apples.

With experience, you will learn which types of powdery mildew are likely to develop in your garden, and this knowledge will take you far in managing this disease. Like other fungicides, milk sprays work best when used preventatively, before the disease can gain a foothold. If you often see powdery mildew on your squash or grapes, start milk sprays before the plant show signs of infection. Back to top

Camden Town High Line

Simon Pitkeathley, the chief executive of Camden Town Unlimited, said: “We’re really excited about this project and the potential it can realise for Camden and Kings Cross. The benefits of reusing this piece of infrastructure outweigh the benefits and costs of leaving it vacant. We’re at the initial feasibility stage, but will have more to share in the future.” If it becomes a reality the scheme will rival New York’s phenomenally successful High Line; the linear park built on a disused Manhattan railway spur (as shown) that has become an unlikely tourist attraction and spawned copycat projects the world over.

The imaginative civil engineering venture would entail reusing defunct track parallel with the North London Line in the Camden area. Lobby group Camden Town Unlimited has been quietly directing thousands of pounds towards what is described as a ‘scoping exercise’ and have commissioned a detailed architectural blueprint of the traffic‐free scheme. It is understood these sketches have now been finalised and will be officially unveiled next month.

This is a significant step towards putting proposals before the planning chiefs, although the proposal is not without its hurdles because the land on which the proposed new greenway would sit is owned by Network Rail. The vision, is of a new elevated parkland walkway which would be opened in phases and would eventually link Camden Town with the railway hub of King’s Cross. It would allow pedestrians to bypass busy inner‐city roads and would knit together areas currently spliced apart by active rail lines and likely to be wrenched further asunder by the HS2 high speed link.

Supporters say the scheme would provide significantly better value for money than the floundering plans for a Garden Bridge, which became thwarted by political wrangling because of spiralling costs, £60million of which have already been met by taxpayers. Back to top

Green Infrastructure Planting

High performance, vegetative systems are critical to the future of our planet, because as we urbanise, we need resilient plant systems to cover our roofs, clean our storm water, sequester carbon, feed pollinators, and delight humans. The benefits are enormous but getting the planting right is incredibly complicated.

The problem is that most green infrastructure plantings have failed. The very standards that regulate these facilities guarantee that the plantings will fail both functionally and aesthetically. As cities push to expand these facilities, some residents aren’t impressed. Many of these facilities are poorly designed and the planting is often an afterthought with too few boroughs treating the planting as an integral element in the functionality of the system. The main driver in plant selection is minimising maintenance for the municipal crews who take care of them and who often have little horticultural knowledge. However, the very standards aimed at minimising labour create the conditions for increased maintenance.

There are several factors at play here. These facilities see plants as technology or systems that need to be engineered where plants are treated as horticultural objects. It is the soil or mulch, not the plant roots, they think is responsible for the functionality of the system. Whilst the soil and mulch do act as filters, this mindset ignores a growing body of literature that suggest that density and diversity of roots play a major role in filtration, water uptake, transpiration, and erosion control. Many green infrastructure standards only require a handful of shrubs in a sea of mulch, because these facilities are so grossly under vegetated, with heavy rain or urban pollutants killing the plants.

Bio retention plantings, particularly in small urban areas, need a lot of different plants woven together in tight mosaics to be effective. There may be dry rims in the upper part of these facilities, moist centres, wet areas near outflows or drains. Diversity also provides a green infrastructure facility with a range of different benefits such as cool‐season growers that hold the soil in winter, warm‐season growers that tolerate drought, short‐lived plants that re‐seed and fill gaps, long‐term plants that create stability, deep rooted plants that act as a sponge and shallow rooted plants that resist erosion. No three species can do all of this and the trick in designing these systems is to make diversity look good. This can be done by limiting the height of planting or creating seasonal spectacles with repetition of flowers. New techniques for management, not maintenance, need to be taught to show how these systems can require less input than traditional plantings.

Often, these facilities fail because they do not relate to people. The plantings are not always contextual and they are rarely beautiful. Nigel Dunnett, one of the world’s leading experts in plant community design, recently installed a project in London called the ‘Grey to Green’ project. The plants were not mature, but the focus on colour and beauty was already apparent. Like so many of his projects, Nigel understands that functional, ecological plantings must also be attractive.

The solution, is that boroughs need to hire the right consultants. This kind of planting needs special skills and specialised knowledge, both for design and for long‐term management. Engineers and landscape architecture are important leaders in making green infrastructure occur. A hybrid of horticulture and ecology to develop the next generation of green infrastructure is what is needed.
(From an article by Thomas Rainer) Back to top

Cooking in a Different Way ‐ Salmorejo

Salmorejo is a cold, creamy tomato soup, originating in Córdoba, Spain. It is a simple pink-orange, summer soup made with tomatoes, bread, oil, garlic and vinegar, like gazpacho.

  • 2 eggs
  • 2 ounces Serrano ham (or use prosciutto)
  • 1 stale 8 ounce baguette
  • 1 large clove of garlic
  • 2 pounds of ripe tomatoes
  • 8 ounces of extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 ounces of red wine vinegar
  • salt to taste

Method: Hard boil the eggs and place in ice cold water to cool. Refrigerate until ready to serve. Cut off the hard crust from the baguette and cut into slices approximately ½ inch thick. Pour a ¼ inch water into a large glass baking dish, add the bread slices and allow them to soak for thirty minutes.

Squeeze excess water out of the slices and place in a blender or food processor. Peel and mince the garlic, and place in the food processor. Peel the tomatoes, remove the seeds and add to the food processor. Pour in the vinegar and slowly pour in the oil whilst processing. Continue to process until smooth. If the mixture is too thick, add some cold water whilst processing. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

When ready to serve, dice the Serrano ham, peel and quarter the hard-boiled eggs, and pour the soup into four bowls. Sprinkle the ham over the soup and add two egg quarters to each bowl.
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