It’s not an allotment, it’s a science lab
There’s more to the humdrum gardening plots than runner beans and marrows. For Edward O’Brien it’s been a chance to let his imagination run wild
Acouple of years ago I was fed up with London and longing for some greenery in my life. I applied for an allotment and received a rather shabby plot in Acton, west London. During the first year I set about clearing the buried carpets, grappling with the heavy clay and planting the usual crops. Under the guidance of my green-fingered mother, I managed to tame the unruly patch and even produce a few edible crops.
However, I wasn’t thrilled by my first year in the allotment game; in all honesty I was rather bored by what I had created – another run of the mill shed and neat rows. It was as I was contemplating giving the whole thing up that I saw a news story and had a flash of inspiration: “Bumper crop for tea growers in Cornwall”. What I needed were new and exciting crops, not the same old beans and marrows. I wanted my plot to be exotic, to be different and for it to never be the same again.
So starting with tea, I dug up the old and planted the new. Tea was followed by huge cardoons, a miniature cornfield, dyer’s woad and trees of noble birth. If a plant was exciting and different I tried to grow it, often with disastrous consequences. My allotment neighbours thought I was mad. My mother migrated to a new, more civilised plot in Barnes, but this didn’t matter; I was loving my allotment more than ever.
For two years I just experimented and grew very little which one could, or would want to, eat.
This year I’ve taken a more balanced approach to growing and it has been a treat to enjoy the strawberries in May and fresh potatoes. As a result, I’m going to keep on growing the weird and wonderful and I’d urge other people who have lost their enthusiasm to do the same.
This is a kind of diary of my highlights – and some lowlights – over the last two years.
Breaking the mould: Edward O’Brien in his west London allotment where he has grown tea, cardoons, woad and poppies