Tuesday, 11 May 2010

Biodiverse Balconies - RHS Competition Winners!

Cast your minds back to late March (which, with the current cold snap, is no hard task), and you'll remember that the London Vegetable Garden launched a competition to mark the International Year of Biodiversity.

In conjunction with The RHS, I asked urban gardeners to submit entries showing how they are promoting biodiversity on their balconies, patios, windowsills and gardens. Well, I am pleased to announce that we now have a winner! Congratulations to Charles Olive, who wins a year's free RHS membership – I am positively 'green' with envy (I'll get my coat...)

Charles aptly lives near east London's Columbia Road, home of the famous flower market. Despite being limited to a balcony and front porch, Charles' love of gardening has enabled him to create an incredible unique and artistic balcony that is home to a wide range of wildlife. Here is the winning entry:

“East London isn’t ostensibly the greenest corner of London. Sure we have Victoria Park and London Fields but it’s mostly a concrete jungle interspersed with numerous patches of burnt earth populated by lunching hipsters. I can’t pretend that my horticultural endeavours are prefaced by a quest for biodiversity but as the old adage says ‘There’s no smoke without fire’.

My balcony is about 1m by 2m and I have 25 tulips, 20 bonsai, 12 hyacinths, 3 mini allium, 3 large allium, 3 mini roses, 3 Calocephalus, 2 jasmine, 2 olive trees, 2 heathers, 1 acer, 1 honey suckle, 1 garlic, a rosemary bush, French lavender, White Lavender, an Azelea and a Hosta. I’m currently growing a bumper crop of chives from seed for the summer, not to eat but to flower – the bees LOVE them.”

You can check out Charles' gardening exploits on his excellent Grumblemouse blog – hopefully he'll write up some of his many forthcoming visits to RHS gardens around the country!

Coming a close second was Chris Mann, whose enjoyable blog, 'Elevated Agriculture', is a personal favourite of mine. Well done Chris – you win a family day pass to an RHS garden of your choice.

As with Charles, Chris too is limited in terms of space, yet remains unperturbed by this landscape limitation:

“Biodiversity is probably not the first thing that springs to mind when thinking of balconies, but a few pots of compost, some seeds and a little TLC can work wonders.

Last year saw tomatoes, dynamite lettuce, delight lettuce, spinach, plum tomatoes, chives, mint, basil, 3 types of strawberries, Romital hot chilli pepper and Kuros sweet peppers; which is about as diverse a group of plants as you're likely to find 15 feet in the air on a sheet of galvanised steel.”

You can read the whole of Chris' post on biodiversity by clicking here – do check it out; it really is a first-class gardening blog!

Now, whilst the dishing out of plant-related prizes is rather fun, this competition has had a serious point to it. Globally, biodiversity is in decline and the 2010 International Year of Biodiversity (IYB) is a collective effort to draw attention to this loss – and a spur to do something about it.

Whilst there is undoubtedly a plethora of things that governments and countries can do to help protect wildlife and the natural environment on a global scale, there is also so much that can be done at a grass roots level (that's my second horrendous pun of the post – I really am getting my coat!).

Charles and Chris may well have won some cracking booty from The RHS, but more importantly, they have shown that we urban gardeners can ALL do something to help reverse this decline and encourage biodiversity – which, most importantly of all, makes winners out of the millions of species of natural life that inhabit this fantastic planet.


  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  2. ive been following your wonderful green fingers for months and your fabulous balcony veg!...and suddenly i thought i think i know you!- did you attend the uel?...if you didnt its my mistake!- enjoying your blog- kazzy ;0)

  3. I did indeed attend UEL!!

  4. w00t! I am so sending this to my mum :)

    But seriously dude - I owe a lot of my gardening enthusiasm to you and your blog so keep it up dude.

  5. Great post and congratulations to the winner.



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