It’s 9.30 on a Sunday morning. Columbia Road has not quite kicked off yet. The traders are huddling together gossiping about the previous night’s events. In about an hours time there will be no more time for gossiping. In two hours time there will not be an inch of street space to manoeuvre. I am sadly not here to listen to the gossip or even buy flowers, I have come here to meet Steve, aka “the pothole gardener”.
Steve is taking his time choosing flowers. He is looking for quite specific plants. Plants that would, lets say, look good in a pothole. Yes, you heard me correctly, – a pothole.
What started off as a simple idea as a project for his BA in Design at Central St. Martins has inadvertently turned into a mini phenomenon. Steve’s idea derived from wanting to do something creative within the urban landscape, an environmental paradox of sorts, by putting something beautiful in the place of something that is both ugly and a nuisance. As a cyclist in London he also wanted to highlight his disdain for the pothole. Hence, the pothole gardener was born.
Preferring to work in the side streets of his neighbourhood in the East End of London, he picks the quieter streets where the plants have a better chance of surviving more than 5 minutes. He works quickly but then stands back to relish the reactions of passers-by. I can see many of them thinking Steve to be a “sandwich short of a picnic”. He does have the last laugh though.
The location selection comes first – the grittier the better. Then comes the garden, created as a visual contrast against its surroundings. Each miniature garden set-up is different each time. There’s sometimes even miniature furniture to complete the garden ambience. They are also always in places that you would least expect them and are supposed to cause a double take reaction.
I think it’s genius. With the simple aim of raising a smile, how could you not. His blog now has a huge and loyal following, and with a recent mention on the hugely successful “1000 awesome things” blog, I can only imagine the sky’s the limit for these little gardens. You will be able to follow Steve’s progress on his site and also see the outcome when he exhibits his degree show at Central St. Martins from the 6th of December. There are also plans for many other different projects in the pipeline. I, for one, am definitely looking forward to this development. Just watch this space!
Steve and I took the liberty of taking a few shots for “1000 awesome things” creator, Neil Pasricha for the U.K. release of his book “The Book of Awesome”. I dare you all to take one click and discover the amazing and life-assuring 1000 awesome things. You won’t know how you got through the day without it.
NEXT WEEK ON LONDON INSIGHT: The Bones of St. Bride’s Church, Fleet Street