I wish I had green fingers

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Simon Harvey

I wish I could … I wish … yes, I know … it’s not too healthy to wish for skills you feel you lack … “work with and appreciate what you’ve got”, they say. But I protest! My Dad had very green fingers and at least three of my siblings have! Why not me?

If I’m more kind to myself though, I tell myself I’ve prioritised other skills, but nevertheless I admire those who have horticultural knowledge and skills and apply their abilities creatively and productively. I guess I’m not alone, there must be many who admire luscious and colourful garden growth but lack the magic touch of a green thumb!

These thoughts came to me having recently walked quite extensively around the Kensington neighbourhood. I can’t help admiring some of the front gardens, and also some of the innovation where neighbours have taken shared control over a nature strip to plant flowers, herbs or small bushes. Beautification – and sometimes “productification” (new word) – of planters, nature strips, centre strips, and fertile tree-bases add immeasurably to the feeling of a street.

Recently I ate at La Tortilleria – a wonderful Mexican restaurant in Stubbs St – and noticed that the City of Melbourne has also got in on the act! The adjacent Scarborough Place is having deep planter boxes installed all along the street, on both sides. If the horticulturalists have done their homework, I’m sure the effect will be magnificent. It’s worth noting, of course, that all the residents in Scarborough Place have off-street parking. Seeing this has prompted me to look more keenly for opportunities to do something similar; width of street and parking availability are certainly the key issues to consider.

I like to think that some readers of this might take up the idea! I have always found the Urban Forest people, or those in charge of these things at the council, to be keen to assist if they can. If you think that the Kensington Association might be able to add some lobbying power to your cause, please make contact. Care and beautification of our environment is clearly within our remit.

If I am accused of having a “roving eye”, it’s true. I often find myself looking at odd blocks of land and thinking what could be done with them. The land alongside the Craigieburn rail line is a good example. The fences often seem to be unnecessarily far from the railway. Surely, I think, if they were moved back, wonderful things could be done with the newly accessible land. Ohh … “but the land is owned by VicTrack” … “Oh, really? So what, VicTrack is a state government organisation, so what’s the problem?” “Good luck,” I’m told … that’s as far as it’s gone. I haven’t followed it up but writing this makes me think I will. I think I know where it would go, but it would be interesting – no harm in trying. Watch this space!

The banks of Moonee Ponds Creek are another example. Those who walk the Creek may have noticed thin metal rods poking out of the ground at fairly regular intervals on the banks between the bike path and railway retaining wall. They are not random protrusions, they are part of a sprinkler system installed more than 20 years ago during the construction of CityLink. Being the dilletante that I am I can’t imagine how the system could effectively irrigate any plantings along the bank without flooding the bike path. However, as we all know, the banks of Moonee Ponds Creek, being our premium public open space, are obviously crying out for someone with the knowledge and skills that I lack and the necessary funding to maintain whatever is established.

Given my lamentations in this article I want to conclude with a “shout-out” to a couple of Kensington horticultural stalwarts and leaders. Firstly, someone who is no stranger to North West City News readers, Jacqui van Heerden of “Transition Town Kensington”. Her knowledge and leadership in terms of growing, producing and recycling is wonderful. Don’t miss her column. Secondly, Nina Ceddia who is the driving force behind the Stockyard Garden. She’s a “horti-legend”. The Stockyard Garden is accessible to the community through membership. Under Nina’s guiding hand the Garden has gone from strength to strength and provided fresh food for many during COVID.

If you’re a horti-dilletante – like me – tune into the green-finger magic of these two community maestros •

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