Box of bulbs was best Christmas gift

Boost for volunteer gardeners from agricultural company

Friday, 7th January — By Anna Lamche

GoodGym volunteers in Thornhill Square

A night session of bulb planting in Thornhill Square

A COMMUNITY garden received an unusual early Christmas present last month.

Gardeners in Thornhill Square in Barnsbury received a festive gift of “hundreds” of different bulbs.

Anna McKane, chair of the Thornhill Square Association, said: “The box was amazing, I couldn’t lift it, there were hundreds of all different things: daffodils, tulips, snowdrops, crocuses. It’s so exciting.”

The bulbs came from Taylors of Holbeach, an agricultural company based in Lincolnshire.

“Quite often they need to clear their warehouses, and they seem to have a great many bulbs that they’ve got to get rid of,” said Ms McKane.

“It’s slightly too late in the season to sell them, so they share them out through this thing called the Metropolitan Public Gardens Association [MPGA].”

The MPGA was established in the Victorian Era as a means of protecting and preserving public gardens.

“It was founded in the 19th century by people who felt even then that some public gardens needed a bit more care,” Ms McKane said.

The Thornhill Garden Association (TGA) carries this tradition on today. A volunteer group, the TGA formed about five years ago when residents noticed the garden was getting overgrown.

“I’m not blaming the council, there have just been huge cuts in council funding,” Ms McKane said.

“The snag is that many of these parks were laid out sometime after the war, when labour was much cheaper, and when councils had much more money. A great many of these parks have been laid out in such a way that they do require a huge amount of maintenance.

“For example, all over Islington many of the parks had absolutely beautiful rose beds. But a rose bed is a very high maintenance thing.

“It’s got to be pruned, it’s got to be weeded, it’s got to be mulched. So all over Islington, volunteers are changing that and putting different plants in which are a bit more low maintenance.”

The bulbs were planted by GoodGym volunteers, who combine running with good deeds. Because GoodGym members volunteer after work, the bulbs were planted in the dark this year.

“They run somewhere, do something fast for half an hour, and then run back,” Ms McKane said. “They’ve been helping us quite regularly for several years. They came with head torches, and they’ve got a portable floodlight which provides light for about an hour. So they got a lot of these bulbs in, which was marvellous.

“Of course there were dog walkers out there, wondering what on earth these people were doing.”

Passersby will be able to enjoy the bulbs from as early as February. “Snowdrops will be in February, and then daffodils will be in March, and tulips in April,” Ms McKane said.

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