The ShowGarden of Real Living

25. September 2015 Artist in residence 0
The ShowGarden of Real Living

Habitorials-117The ShowGarden of Real Living is part of the Cambridge Clay Farm Public Art Strategy. This strategy is funded by Cambridge City Council and the developers Countryside Properties.

The ShowGarden is a space for experimentation and demonstration, where residents of the new housing estates can explore the potential of their own outdoor spaces, learning gardening skills suitable for small urban gardens, roof terraces and balconies. Five skillshare sessions took place last summer and a huge plant giveaway was set up to distribute free plants to locals who want to start gardening straight away, without a budget.

The garden included annual and perennial flowers, a container pond, lots of vegetables and soft fruits, a herb spiral, a compost heap, insect and bird boxes, a plumb tree (with it’s roots restricted) and a miniature apple tree. As a deliberate act of provocation, I decided to test what would be deemed acceptable to the neighbours, by including a couple of chickens and a fire pit in the mix. Would the noise, or the smell, bother the people living nearby? Would any of them complain? Can small urban gardens accommodate such activities and desires?

In fact, the chickens became a local curiosity for the smaller children from the surrounding streets, and regularly received visits from kids eager to feed them and collect (and eat!) the eggs. The fire was often used, especially by the neighbourhood pub regulars on colder evenings when the lounge-bar got busy, but that didn’t seem to cause any nuisance to anyone either. In fact, although the garden is probably too small to sustain chickens (unless you wish to keep them at the expense of all else), this small empty urban garden in a densely populated, modernist development, was easily and cheaply transformed into a garden that was buzzing with wildlife and the sound of children talking to hens and neighbourly conversations accompanied by the warming smell of woodsmoke.