I was recently commissioned to write a poem for a garden. Odd. And – it turns out – wonderful. It was dreamt up by the visionaries at Hosta, a Nottingham-based horticultural consultancy whose mission is to ‘green the grey’ and try and get our cities breathing again, putting roof gardens on shopping centres and ‘pocket parks’ in previously disused public spaces, giving people a place to relax as they work, shop, and generally just exist in the centre of town. They wanted to incorporate some new writing into their next piece of work to celebrate Nottingham’s recent status as a UNESCO City of Literature and that’s where I came in. The poem was to be engraved on to the walls of their first show garden, a back-to-back pocket park destined for the 2016 Royal Horticultural Society Tatton Park Show in Cheshire which will soon be relocated back to Nottingham for everyone to enjoy. Together we imagined a poem that celebrates the garden as something both apart from, and simultaneously a part of, the city; in conversation with its urban environment rather than in opposition to it. I wanted to explore the idea of the garden as a place of inherent ancestral and anthropological calm, at once strange and familiar, exotic and comforting, stimulating and restorative.
The garden, called ‘A Drop of Urban Green’ and designed by Ed Higgins, won Best Back-To-Back Garden and an RHS Gold Medal at Tatton Park, and was featured on the BBC coverage of the event. Catch it on iPlayer here (featured at 28 minutes in).
Watch me perform the poem: