Location: ‘Charlie’s Patch’, Bowden Street, London SE11 4DX
Lead Pimpers: Penny Ritchie Calder, Cleaver Street and Bowden Street Residents Association.
Begun: 23 September 2011
Documented: 15 June 2012
Description: A little pocket garden, overlooked by a house in which Charlie Chaplin once lived, featuring wooden planters and beds containing a mix of shrubs, perennials and annuals. The planting has been chosen to provide all year round interest, and to encourage bees, butterflies and other pollinating insects. It includes tall evergreen shrubs such as laurel, photinia (red robin) and choisya; aucuba, buddleia, lavender, rosemary, foxglove, gladioli, echinacea, fuschia, ivy, euonymous, periwinkle, rockrose, campanula, petunia, pansy, viola, snapdragon and spring-flowering bulbs. The plants were sourced where possible from two local charities: Roots & Shoots, an educational project, and Tomorrow’s People, a local flower and plant stall which helps get people back into work. Residents also donated plants. Costs were met by two adjoining residents’ associations.

Up until last autumn the garden was a patch of unloved waste ground on a side road through Kennington used by large numbers of pedestrians. It was an eyesore in the middle of a conservation area. In theory the land belongs to Lambeth council, but over the years it had become a weed-strewn dumping ground for old sofas, binbags and litter. On 23 September 2011 a group of local residents got together to clear the area and plant some 200 bulbs and winter flowering plants in beds created around existing trees. By Spring 2012 it was looking very colourful and was much commented on by passers by. Our Residents’ Association was then fortunate enough to get an unexpected windfall which enabled us to buy 8 large planters: wooden barrels which reflect the history of the building directly opposite – an old pickle factory whose produce was stored in barrels. These were planted up on 26 May 2012 by a group of residents, and more plants were added to the existing beds. Water-retaining granules have been mixed with the compost, and residents and small businesses closest to the patch have been equipped with watering cans to keep the plants well watered. Lambeth council have been kept informed throughout, and have been very supportive. We have made sure that we make no physical changes to the site (eg. using planters rather than digging up the existing brick paving) so everything could if necessary be restored to its previous state. It is amazing how much difference this new pocket garden has made to the area and how much interest and appreciation it has generated. It gives us all a great deal of pleasure.

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