It’s not an al­lot­ment, it’s a sci­ence lab

The Daily Telegraph - Gardening - - Front Page -

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

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