Look out for blue potatoes, olive trees, hops and wild flowers on the roof of the Southbank Centre this summer. Smack bang in the centre of London’s vibrant Southbank, the Garden proved a hit when it first opened last year, as passers-by popped in for a summer’s evening drink from the bar or to find a quiet spot on a busy day.
Created as a partnership between Southbank Centre and the Eden Project, it was built from scratch last year by the Grounded gardening team from Providence Row Housing Association (PRHA) working with colleagues from Eden.
Grounded is made up of service users, tenants and former tenants who have suffered homelessness. Some members of Grounded have gone on to gain employment in horticulture and related roles.
The team have worked through the winter months to prepare the Queen Elizabeth Hall Roof Garden ready to grow vegetables from around the world, to reflect the Southbank Centre’s site-wide Festival of the World which runs from 1 June to 9 September.
Unusual foods such as blue potatoes, narga peppers (an essential ingredient in Bangladeshi cooking) as well as a mini olive grove are being grown. They also aim to add more greenery to Southbank Centre, training vines, hops and ivy over the concrete walls. Raised beds, wild and pollinating flowers and the lawn will also be maintained.
Eden’s Landscape Architect Jane Knight said: ‘This is now the fourth spring that we’ve worked with our friends from Grounded. In 2009 and 2010, we worked together at Chelsea Flower Show and, building on those experiences, last year we created a garden oasis at the Southbank. It’s been wonderful to see the team’s skills, expertise and confidence grow and we’re all hoping that this next evolution of the roof garden will be just as popular with visitors.’
Fiona Humphrey, Chief Executive of PRHA added: ‘The Grounded team have achieved some fantastic results, especially in involving former homeless people and people with mental health problems to regain confidence and build up skills for the future.’
The Queen Elizabeth Hall Roof Garden opens from 10am to dusk. Admission is free, and they are fully accessible.
Read the moving personal story from one of the Grounded gardeners, or find out more about the team behind the garden in this video.