Blackrock Community Garden

October 25, 2015

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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.

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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.

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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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