Beautiful Allotment





Summer 2018. Rob & The Plants were commissioned to design and maintain a working pop-up allotment on the lawns of the Geffrye Museum, Kingsland Road for Bourne & Hollingsworth. An acre site with over 1000 edible plants, our team were responsible for site layout, plant sourcing (grown on to maturity), planting plan and artistic installations including a bathtub fountain and a flower filled ‘rust in peace’ car. From the initial consultation to delivery was a brief 6 week period.



The challenges of raising a garden in 3 days should be obvious to even the most novice of plant people. We wanted to create a space that felt like an authentic allotment – productive and peaceful. Not to mention personal, as if the original inhabitants of the Geffrye alms houses forwent their stately lawn and got growing. Most important was to have people able to sit or relax in amongst the plants; immersed in the experience of a grow-your-own space, not just witnessing it from a distance or as a quirky add on. In London its easy to forget that this process is actually the centre of our world. It was important also to involve as many people from the growing community as we could; we were fortunate that OrganicLea London’s largest growing cooperative agreed to provide their plants including several heritage tomato varieties and we have two of their graduates maintaining the site. We also approached Lend and Tend, an outfit that connects growers sick of allotment waiting lists with people who have empty spaces, and offered out part of the allotment to anybody keen to dip their toe in the muddy waters of plant growing.

We wanted to do all this in the most sustainable way too, so building extensive wooden beds with nowhere to go after the end of summer seemed totally profligate. We decided to employ the growing trend of straw bale gardening, popular with people who have bad soil or even no soil. This way you can grow on a driveway or patio with relative ease. As a by-product of the cereal industry we can close the loop by sending all the straw and used crop plants straight back to the composters. We say back because all the soil on site came from a green waste team (Pale Green Dot) that collect from Londons Bars and restaurants including B&H Buildings. Old records as labels and champagne muselet butterflies serve as little reminders that waste products can be beautiful with just a bit of imagination.
Rob. Image courtesy of Bourne & Hollingsworth.
There are over 60 varieties of crop in our allotment and we aim to showcase the familiar as well as the more unsual, from Corn to Callaloo. All the flowers are also typically used as companion plants to attract pollinators and deter pests. The formal layout of the brick-like bales allowed us to create fun parades of similar plants such as ‘Bean Walk’ and ‘Squash Tunnel’. Each quadrant can be used to showcase different sets of plants. Plants from the Mediterranean in one area, Orchard plants in another. And of course you’ll probably notices the fountain and other features where we couldn’t stop ourselves from having a play!

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