As part of this year’s Celebrating Age Festival, Alive’s dementia-friendly allotment is running an open afternoon to reflect on how culture and climate have changed gardening over the last 70 years and to celebrate the work of the older people who’ve helped make it such a success.
Following just over a year of development, Alive ran its first dementia-friendly gardening session at their allotment in August 2021. The allotment was almost a blank canvas at the time – the hard work of landscaping and designing the bespoke space had been done, but the hard work of gardening it was yet to begin.
That the allotment has been such a success in its first year is, undoubtedly, down to the older people living locally who’ve joined week in, week out, come rain or shine. They have shaped how it looks, helped decide what is grown, planted almost every flower and vegetable, maintained everything, whatever the weather, and then have taken crops home to enjoy with family.
This year’s celebrating age festival gives us a chance to honour all their hard work. With the theme of “the changing face of Bristol in the last 70 years”, it has also given us a chance to explore other issues: we are using the open day to explore two significant ways that we consider gardening has changed since 1952 – culture and climate.
On the day, we will be inviting some of the members of the local community along who’ve encouraged us to plant less traditional vegetables. They will take the opportunity to talk to visitors about vegetables t rarely grown in the UK in 1952, many of which are now staples on Bristol’s allotments. From the Afro-Caribbean community, people will be on hand to talk about our beautiful callaloo, which is just setting seed. We also have ginger plants on site and pumpkins, which until the 1990s could only be found in specialist shops. And from the Asian community, we’ll have people on hand to talk about such things as the sprawling chayote we have clambering over our pergola and the pak choi we grow very successfully.
To reflect on how the climate has changed over the last 70 years, we’ll be planting a sustainable, wildlife-friendly dry garden. With this long, dry summer, it has hit hard how our gardening is going to have to adapt to be more water conscious. By creating a bed with drought tolerant plants such as grasses, echinacea, eryngium, sedums etc., we’ll be providing an area that won’t need watering at all – and minimal maintenance. In winter, it will offer shelter to wildlife and being perennial, it’ll help combat soil erosion and enable carbon sequestering. We’ll also focus on pollinator-friendly plants to emphasise how the landscape has changed for insects and wildlife over the last 70 years, and how they now need all the help they can get from gardeners.
We can’t wait to open our allotment gates to the public again, to challenge stereotypes of what older people in society can achieve and to reflect on changes in gardening over the last 70 years.
The CAF allotment session is running at Charlton Road Allotments, BS10 6JZ on Friday 7th October 1.30 to 3.30.
Read more about CAF here: https://www.ageuk.org.uk/bristol/our-services/wider-work-in-the-community/celebrating-age-festival.