Arts and Culture

Inner-city forests and budget balconies: inside the first-ever RHS Urban Gardening Show

Green-fingered Mancunians came together to celebrate the power of small spaces at the Royal Horticultural Society’s first ever Urban Gardening show, which came to a conclusion on Sunday.

Held at the Depot Mayfield Park, visitors had the chance to explore how they can maximise their garden’s potential and turn their city-space into one bursting with plant life and fragrance. 

This was no country gardening show. Instead, the industrial backdrop of the old train sheds hosted an atmospheric urban forest, workshops on building terrariums (self-contained ecosystems entirely within a jar), and cubic frames that reimagined how garden space can be organised.

Other exhibits took advantage of scrap materials such as old rubble and rusted metal, showing how urban gardening can require us to rethink how we approach spaces we would not traditionally consider suitable for a flourishing garden.

Strange sounds and a liminal atmosphere: the urban forest inside Mayfield Depot

Towards the centre of the exhibition, students from Manchester Metropolitan University presented four gardens no bigger than a balcony, each which would face a different cardinal direction.

Designed with Jason Williams, the Manchester ‘Cloud Gardener’, they prove that gardening doesn’t just have to be the preserve of wealthy home-owners with plenty of time on their hands.

Adam Charlesworth, an illustration student who was part of the team that created the north facing garden, said that the space was designed with students in mind.

He added: “As students we hope for accommodation where we do have spaces to do this. These spaces and things like community gardens are so good for mental health and wellbeing.

“The main message I want people to take away from this is that gardening is accessible.”

Using weather-resistant alpines set into wooden pallets, the project cost under £500 and took only a couple of months to come together. Mindful of how temporary student’s living situations can be, all the planting can be easily removed and repurposed in another space.

Recycled pallets form one wall of the north-facing balcony garden

Otto Mendelsson, Tara Burdett and Kalyani Mohadikar were part of the east facing garden. Also created in two months on a sub-£500 budget, the garden encourages people to think of alternatives to standard urban economic life and consumption habits. 

A set of shelves in the corner created a well-stocked vertical kitchen garden. On the other side of the balcony, ivy was embraced, rather than discouraged, to help screen the space and create a sense of privacy.

Tara said: “A small space doesn’t have to feel small – you can bring so many functions to a limited space.”

Vertical planting maximises space, creating an oasis-like effect inside the vast former train depot

All photos courtesy of Tom Bryden

Join the discussion

Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

Related Articles