Arthur's Blog: 2nd June

2nd June 2015

Arthur's Blog: 2nd June

When I first visited the courtyard garden it was on a rather depressingly grey February day. Here I was met with a largely blank canvas of earth and gravel. I stood in its centre and surveyed; surrounded by a seemingly lifeless, human-world of bricks and mortar and the sound of the always busy Litchfield road, thundering like rockets taking off speedily over the courtyard walls. I pruned the dormant espaliered pears as they were fast asleep then, bending their upright stems reluctantly into curved arches. The movement of my feet upon the raised beds caused a fat, wiggly worm to arise to the surface. I smiled. I knew that this space once used as a factory dump created though the vision of Matthew Rice was something very special and would within months be a canvas of colour, beauty and a zest for life.

It’s now June and the garden is becoming a green archipelago. Almost all the plants to be seen have been grown either here, at the factory, or in Oxford with the help of marvellous Martin, Matthew and Emma’s head gardener there. On the factory roof are greenhouses – you can see these though a window if you go on a factory tour! Here I am growing basil and tomatoes for the café in the largest of the two and using the smaller one for propagation - at the time of writing I am sowing ornamental cabbages for shop displays during the winter. Currently in the shops and café, I am filling vases with flowers and seeding grasses picked from the much ignored meadows which lie adjacent to the factory sown by Matthew several years ago. Although, at the moment, the vases look very Jane Austin in style, by July we will have zinnias, cosmos and the first dahlias to pick from which will jazz things up no end.

My job is not just to garden but to bring flowers and fowl (I also look after the poultry), to the forefront of a visit to the factory, after all, both are entwined in Emma and Matthews’s designs- from purple veg jugs to light Sussex hen mugs! While I do work largely alone, the passion and interest shown from the staff here at Stoke has made me feel that I am anything but that.

I hope all those who visit the factory, will very much delight in visiting the garden this year and enjoy reading this blog which will follow its growth throughout the summer.

– With Very best wishes, Arthur Parkinson

2nd June 2015