Photo: Rainbow’s End Garden by 12 year old Alicia Kavanagh at Ireland’s Bloom Garden Festival, 2018

A Reflection of the Grief Process through the Eyes of a Child.

A Community Garden for Meath Springboard Family Support Services by 12 year old Alicia Kavanagh (Navan, County Meath). Alicia’s garden represents the grieving process for children participating in bereavement counselling. Alicia’s garden also highlights how children and adults grieve differently.


Alicia Kavanagh, Photo: Caroline Quinn for the Irish Independent

Garden Description by Alicia Kavanagh

“My hope for my garden is that its message will hep people. It’s about how children and grown ups see emotions differently. I’ve picked grief as a situation when people feel all sorts of emotions. I’ve used the planting in my garden to show you those emotions in colour, just life a rainbow”.

“My colour palette was chosen from the results of two surveys, one with adults, the other with children.  All were given the colours of the rainbow and the adults were given black, white and brown too. The results were very interesting and really showed that children and adults deal with emotions very differently. For instance, ‘shock’. For adults shock was white and for the kids it was pink and orange”.


Photo: Alicia Kavanagh, Rainbow’s End Facebook Page

“You will find the adult colours around the outer edge of the garden. The children are on the inside. The tall (adult) plants protect the smaller (children) ones. If the adult plants are not tended they will wilt and topple over on top of the small ones. Adults protect children, but the children still need to be able to feel freedom and to express themselves. Stand-by and provide support but you have to let the air in”.

“Plants chosen depended on the colour scheme of the stages of grief, with the red-hued bleeding heart plant representing grief, and herbs traditionally used as cures for anxiety disorders, being used to symbolise depression”. (Claire O’Mahony, Irish Independent,  May 27, 2018)



The Treeline Project

July 17, 2017

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Photo: Mud Island Community Garden, Dublin

The Treeline Project aims to create a green corridor on Dublin’s James Joyce Street by planting a variety of trees chosen from Ulysses.”

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Photo: Printmaking with Flowers, The MONTO Picnic, Dublin with artist Naomi Draper

Through tree schools, music, picnics, art, spoken word, theatre and dance organisers encourage the activation of green public space in Dublin’s city centre.

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Photo: Farmers’ Hill, North East Community Garden, Dublin

The project celebrates Dublin as a potential Playful City where outdoor spaces bring generations together through imaginative design, conversation, gardening and special events.

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Photo: Jason Sheridan at Hardwicke Community Garden Dublin

A Tree School Manifesto from the Treeline Project

Written and Activated by Artists Seoidín O’Sullivan and Katie Holten

Tree School is a free school.

Tree School is a school without walls.

Tree School has no homework, only love work.

Tree School invites visitors of all sizes, no one’s too young or too old.

Tree School has no leaders, we are all students.

Tree School encourages radical action and radical inaction.

Tree hugging is encouraged, but is not mandatory.

Tree School keeps the same hours as trees: We’re always open.

Tree School is rooted in James Joyce Street in Dublin’s inner city.

Tree School explores all that is political and poetical about trees.

Tree School is creating a new ABC….written with a Dublin-specific Tree Alphabet.

Who doesn’t want to write a love letter with trees?

Tree School offers grafting workshops because the world needs more trees and we can plant them.

Tree School disputes the myths of scarcity. Nature is abundant if we could access land, plant a seed, grow a tree.

Tree School grafts ideas, unearthing the rhizomatic potentialities of trees.

Tree School wants every child to have access to a tree to climb and pick fruit from.

Tree School curriculum is germinating…

Prinzessinnengarten, Berlin

January 14, 2017


Photo Reference: Food in Berlin by Mary Scherpe

“This is de-territorialized, interstitial space, where almost anything goes – anything that isn’t capitalism that is – and it is here that alternatives to capitalism’s ubiquitous aesthetic can mutate and evolve, as if in some primordial tide pool of marginalized subjectivities, sheltered from the intense glare of commerciality that so dominates the world outside. This aesthetic of this zone is funky, emergent, salvaged and the tendentious…I propose a celebratory adoption of unplanning as a guiding principal in the development of public spaces…Even when these spaces are ephemeral they can have a profound and lasting effect.” Source: Unplanning by Oliver Kellhammer

This 6,000 square meter fallow land was just an empty space for more then 60 years, part of the time hidden by the Berlin wall. In June 2009 more then one hundred volunteers helped clean up this area and threw away more then two tons of garbage. Prinzessinnengarten only gets contacts on a yearly basis, therefore everything is movable. The plants are planted in old milk packs, rice bags and plastic containers from bakeries. (Source: Prinzessinnen-Garten by Eva-Lena Weinstock



A brownfield in summer 2009 turned into a urban garden and community enterprise in 2010. Photos:

The project functions as a platform for people of the city and the surrounding neighbourhood. Whilst vegetable growing is the core activity, the place has many other uses. These include a garden restaurant and café, exhibition space for art projects, two open workshop spaces, the Material Mafia – who collect and recycle valuable waste, a bee project, a perennial nursery, musical performances and lots of informal and formal learning opportunities in the form of seminars or workshops. The place also functions as a social enterprise which currently employs 12 people – all part of Prinzessinnengarten’s exploration of new ways of working and living. (Source: John Tebbs, The Garden Edit



Urban gardens practically demonstrate an ecologically and socially different approach to urban spaces and their inhabitants, enable the social empowerment of marginalized communities, and are places where opportunities for local micro-economies and other economic models are being tested. In an unobtrusive and pragmatic way, such gardens raise the question of how we want to live in our cities in the future. Source: Cultivating a Different City by Marco Clausen





Community Blossoms

August 5, 2016

Fionnuala Fallon’s article entitled “Sustainable Flowers and Community Blossoms” (Irish Times) champions ecological flowers. The references and photographs below are inspired by Fallon’s writing, and offer ideas for community gardeners interested in growing flowers for artworks, local celebrations, educational workshops, and environmental programmes.


Photo: Fionnuala Fallon, The Irish Times, Rose petals, forget-me-nots, cornflowers and daisies, Preen’s SS17, London Fashion Week




Electric Daisy Flower Farm

DSC_1857-1022x1024Hellebore Chandelier, Hanako Floral Studio,



Manor Garden,


Photo: India Hobson,, Article/Anna Potter (Florist) of Swallows and Damsons, Sheffield



Photo: Flower House Detroit, Flower Installation Coordinated by Lisa Waud. A floral art installation constructed by American florists in an abandoned house. Source:


Photo: Constance Spry, Flower Activist, made at A Fair Land, Grizedale Arts and the Irish Museum of Modern Art, 12-28 August, 2016


Photo: Floret Flowers,


Delicate and relaxed, wildflowers evoke feelings of freedom and light heartedness. When placed in an unusual vessel these textural beauties offer an unexpected surprise. They are at the same time unruly and refined, elegant and free spirited. When sourcing flowers there is an entire world to be discovered beyond the boundaries of the garden. Roadside ditches, abandoned fields and overgrown city lots provide countless opportunities for foraging. Grasses, seed pods and interesting textures are just waiting to be collected and transformed into a magical display

(Erin Benzakein, Wildflower DIY Centrepiece, Floret Flowers)


Dried Peony Petals Dried and Sewn on the Fabric for the Northern Ireland Group for Art as Therapy Summer School, 2016


Artist: Rebecca Louise Law, Sculpture 2014, Odyssey, bo.lee gallery, London,








Header Image: Photo taken by Andrew Teebay of the Liverpool Echo for The Guardian, May 15, 2015

Granby Four Streets Guerrilla Gardening Photos by Ronnie Hughes

Granby Four Streets (Liverpool) is a Community Land Trust (CLT) administered as a not-for-profit initiative offering affordable housing and community facilities. A CLT is a local democratic force empowering communities to develop environmental and architectural solutions for their locality. In the case of Granby Four Streets it is a vibrant endeavour transforming a derelict neighbourhood into a haven for good design. Residents of the area have suffered at the hands of impoverished planning and neglectful politics for decades. A group of 18 young architects collaborating under the name Assemble have begun to change the entire self esteem of this neighbourhood by re-designing homes and local landscapes. They have just won the Turner Prize for their revolutionary tactics.

In the aftermath of riots in 1981, the Granby area suffered declines in both residents and liveable properties. It became a forgotten area where houses were boarded up and a sense of community pride became lost in an exodus to escape. Only 70 residents remained in an area where there were once 200 homes. Some of these residents  became guerrilla gardeners calling themselves That Blooming Green Triangle (referencing their triangular block of terraced houses). Beginning their crusade over ten years ago, their unyielding commitment to enhancing local landscapes began to re-create hope and a sense of collective artistry. They are a testimony to how pride of place can conquer all. The most discouraging streets have now been revitalised with wildflowers and herbs, pop-up events, murals, markets and garden work parties.

A handful of tenacious people sowing seeds and planting flowers in forgotten corners to counteract neglect not of their making has triumphed over three decades of planning policy failure ( Grass Roots Regeneration by Caroline Beck



Photos: Granby Four Streets Guerrilla Gardening by Ronnie Hughes

Planting up the streets began as a deliberate way of making the place look special and cared for and a pleasure to live in, when all of the tinned up properties might suggest that none of those things were true (Ronnie Hughes,

And if art isn’t about people and humanity, then what is it about?” (Hazel Tilley,


Blackrock Community Garden

October 25, 2015


Gardens are hubs that connect people…the landscape itself can be an ongoing art piece, which when managed by creative people, can serve as a kind of lab or platform where ongoing experiments with biomaterials can be carried out and the public engaged in wider aesthetic discussion as well as encouraged to participate in the site’s ongoing stewardship….The idea that people can just follow their creative impulses I think is very important, because that is what human society is based on: people’s ability to fulfil creative and compassionate impulses… (Oliver Kellhammer in conversation with Sharon Kallis, Common Threads: Weaving Community Through Collaborative Eco-Art)

Blackrock Community Garden is located in County Louth, Ireland. It is composed as a layering of horticultural crops (vegetables, orchard fruits, and herbs), combined with an edible field hedge (hazel nuts, rose hips, hawthorn berries, blackthorn berries and crabapples), and cottage garden floral displays (hollyhocks, roses, sweet peas, geraniums, foxgloves, etc.). The garden enhances both the ecology of the community while also supplying fruits, nuts, and herbs that can be harvested by local residents. Additionally it acts as a refuge, a place apart from the built up environment, a chance to be surrounded by the vitality of nature. The close proximity of the garden to residential areas, a playground, schools, and an outdoor gym means that it is situated within the heart of community life. Since its inception four years ago, residents of all ages have developed an affectionate embrace of the garden, cultivated from neglected land.


A dedicated group of volunteers maintain the garden, always inviting newcomers and families to join them as they continue to develop new features, garden spaces and seasonal activities. Irish customs and folklore associated with particular times of year are celebrated through the course of garden processions, nature crafts, land art, and rituals that involve residents of all ages. Local schools have developed groups of guerrilla gardeners that have initiated new garden areas incorporating herb, flower and woodland themes. Public education workshops are also available on a range of topics from composting and vegetable gardening to tree planting and mulching with natural materials.


Perhaps the most essential aspect of the garden is its therapeutic nature. A garden that is always there when you need it (close at hand and freely available) relevant to the needs of local people. New residents find friends through garden volunteering and seasonal celebrations. Social contacts are generated amongst the generations as senior citizens mentor adults and children in a range of gardening skills. Families visit with autistic children, toddlers roam to find mint and willow huts, and school children use the outdoor classroom space for art and nature study. Horticultural skills and creativity are shared with generosity, as part of the garden’s cultivation of grassroots social networks. There is overall a sense of enthusiasm and a belief that shared resources are the foundation of community living.


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Edible Estates 2007, Fritz Haeg, Brookwood House Estate and Tate Modern

Fritz Haeg, Information and Bio

Today’s towns and cities are engineered for isolation, and growing food in your front yard becomes a way to subvert this tendency. The front lawn, a highly visible slice of private property, has the capacity to also be public…. An Edible Estate can serve to stitch communities back together, taking a space that was previously isolating and turn it into a welcoming forum that re-engages people with one another…. Food grown in our front yards will connect us to the seasons, the organic cycles of the earth, and our neighbors. The banal lifeless space of uniform grass in front of the house will be replaced with the chaotic abundance of biodiversity… Edible Estates takes on our relationship with our neighbors, the source of our food, and our connection to the natural environment….We grow a lawn the same way anywhere in the world, but when we grow our own food we have to start paying attention to where we are… In becoming gardeners we will reconsider our connection to the land, what we take from it and what we put in our bodies (Fritz Haeg, Edible Estates).

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There comes a time when we wish to liberate all our food-growing opportunities from the tyranny of lawn control…So we plant the front lawn. You are now a member of the Popular Front. You are an urban farmer and your house is another link in the chain. Every new farmer who plants their front yard creates an outpost in the campaign to feed the city of the future. You are making a statement that we are what we eat and we eat where we live (David Tracey, Urban Agriculture)

Garden and environmental activists David Tracey and Fritz Haeg both campaign for the cultivation of front lawns as edible gardens, replacing unproductive lawns with vegetables, herbs, soft fruit, and fruit trees. The curbside appeal of the edible estate garden is its location as both a domestic and community food source. The visibility of the garden replaces the uniformity of square lawns, inviting neighbours and pedestrians to engage with private gardens as interactive community landscapes that can develop social networks of local gardening enthusiasts. The potential of the front lawn to be transformed into edible growing, can make the idea of urban agriculture a reality.

For Haeg this is an artistic project, the installation of edible plants as materials to create truly cultured horticulture, that has at its core idiosyncratic aesthetics reflecting the character of domestic plots of land. Daring to break the rules of conformity, deciding to ‘go wild’, to garden beyond rows, and to choose nature as your guide, is a courageous decision. Fundamentally you are asserting your independence. You have become a free spirit generating a gesture of hospitality as you share your creativity, knowledge, plot and edible crops with others.



Photos: Edible Estates, Fritz Haeg

North American Facts on the Quest for the Perfect Lawn

1. North Americans dump ten times more pesticides per acre on lawns than farmers on croplands.

2. It costs more money per acre to maintain a lawn than to grow corn or rice.

3. Some 40 billion dollars was spent on lawns in North America in 2005 – more than the continent gave in foreign aid.

4. Phosphorus runoff from excess lawn fertiliser contributes to algae blooms in rivers, lakes and the ocean that kill fish.

5. Thirty percent of the water used on the East Coast of the US goes to water lawns.

6. An estimated seven million birds are killed in the US each year by lawn pesticides.

7. An estimated 75 000 Americans are injured every year from lawnmowers, about the same as for guns.

8. The average homeowner spends 150 hours a year maintaining his lawn.

(Ted Steinberg’s book Specifically American Green: The Obsessive Quest for the Perfect Lawn quoted in Urban Agriculture by David Tracey) 


Urban Agriculture: Ideas and Designs for the New Food Revolution by David Tracey

David Tracey

Edible Estates: Attack on the Front Lawn by Fritz Haeg

Fritz Haeg Website



The Bowery Project, founded by Deena DelZotto and Rachel Kimel, is based in Toronto and its aim is to transform vacant spaces into places to grow food. The initiative promotes urban agriculture through temporarily placing portable growing crates into formerly unproductive city spaces. The Bowery Project is a mobile farm growing food for restaurants and charities.

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All produce is grown in lined milk crates that act as growing containers. Each crate can be transported to different locations when required.

Local community members are encouraged to participate in the Bowery’s pop-up gardens which offer hands-on educational experience. The Bowery Project is an innovative way to activate empty city lots, which often remain barren for long periods of time awaiting re-development.


For city dwellers transforming an unproductive and neglected environment into a community resource is a practical and sustainable idea that enhances urban living.







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Reading With My Whole Body: An Interview with Essi Kausalainen, Source:


Herbs are plants that signify hope, remedies, and vitality. They are essential ingredients of folklore, traditional cures, and social customs that integrate land with culture. Within Ireland, there are many performative actions that involve herbs as ways to activate growth and soil fertility. Plants bring people together, and evoke eccentric actions as a way of bringing nature closer to relieving ailments of the human condition.

Bringing herbs to people, urban places and everyday life in general, is a way to become linked to a legacy of remedies that evoke social history and belief systems. Culture, cures and land are integrated with one another. Landscape is the scene of life, and herbs can grow within the neglected and abandoned places that we inhabit. Within the edges of urban and rural spaces herbs find life.

Finnish artist Essi Kausalainen uses plants in her arts for health based performances, to enrich physical associations to the natural world.

The basis of Essi’s artistic practice is the human body with its senses, instincts and thoughts. She views the world as an organism – as a constant movement of the different forms and ways of being. In her art she translates observations of the living into a poetic language of images, gestures and spaces (Fix 13, Tenth Annual Live Art Biennial, Catalyst Art Gallery, Belfast)

The location of Essi’s connection to plants is visible, situated on streets and in some cases hospitals. She brings ecology with her, and performs it physically, reminding us of how plants are our allies, our anecdote to the complex predicaments of life.


Essi Kausalainen has created her work for ANTI Festival during a one-month residency in Kuopio. The work consists of two parts: Travelling Garden (May) and Greenhouse (September). In May, Kausalainen walked around the city with her garden and asked people to draw plants for her imaginary garden. Every participant was given seeds to be grown for the project. In September, Kausalainen returns to Kuopio to see what has grown from the seeds: Greenhouse is a performance-installation build from the drawings and the plants.

“In my work I explore the human body/being in relation to the space that surrounds it. I’m interested in the physical experience of being (body as a space, body as an action, body as an identity). The pieces are often based on a slow process of making (of becoming). They built a poetic language of images, gestures and spaces – a language that invites the audience into a gentle dialogue. The medium of my work varies from performance and installation to drawing and video.”








The work of Essi Kausalainen is presented with the Support of the Alfred Kordelin foundation.



Nigel Dunnett is a Professor of Planting Design and Vegetation Technology at the University of Sheffield. His talk at the Botanic Gardens in Dublin (November 28, 2013), showcased his approach to creating dynamic landscapes. Dunnett’s cultivation of pictorial meadows is internationally recognised as an invaluable contribution to biodiversity planting. Dunnett’s study of natural meadow habitats, has informed his design of gardens, which mimic the layering affect of indigenous meadows. Dunnett has developed naturalistic forms of garden design, which act as forms of public art. He strives to evoke emotional responses to his gardens, and considers colourful meadow gardens to be a vital input towards people’s sense of well being. Communities also benefit from his naturescape planting methods. Dunnett believes that the colour, abundance and ephemeral characteristics of meadows, improves the quality of people’s living environments. Nature restores people’s faith in their surroundings. Meadows are ever-changing landscapes, which offer a sense of repetition and rhythm to people’s daily lives.



Dunnett’s pictorial meadows create growing impressionistic paintings with a rich colour palette and texture. He has developed seed mixes (combinations of native and non-native plant species) which work to obtain high biodiversity and successional displays. He generates plant communities which grow together to create a meadow aesthetic. Dunnett believes that his meadow gardens contribute towards more healthy cities, and livable communities. In collaboration with his colleague James Hitchmough “he is not trying to recreate something that you might see in the countryside, but instead is designing something that’s very visually dramatic, floriferous and long-flowering yet cost-effective and low-maintenance, using directly-sown, naturalistic plant communities ecologically suited to the particular conditions of the site” (quotation included in Fionnuala Fallon’s article for the Irish Times, November 9, 2013, entitled “Pleasure Gardens”).

Dunnett’s goal is to change the landscaping techniques of cities, towns and local authorities towards a more nature based approach to growing flowers as drifts of dense colour. His meadows are engaging, visionary, and inspire a sense of imaginative reverie. They are also relatively easy to cultivate, as they are all grown from scattered seed on raked bare ground. Flower meadows incorporated within schools, road verges, and public lands can supply natural doses of colour to bare and neglected spaces, and equally they can work towards lifting people’s spirits. Both of these goals together can change the nature of daily living.


Nigel Dunnett

Pictorial Meadows: