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BARBICAN LIFE


William Howard takes us through a year’s activities of the Barbican Horticultural Society which sees numerous outings and an annual competition.


here is no easier way for the Barbican Society to start a new year than by having the AGM in the Lilac Room in late January, so that is what


In MARCH we visit the


we always do - this is followed immediately by our ‘sell out’ ITALIAN NEW YEAR’S FEAST. This year, for the fourth time running, we were welcomed by Angelo as we took over his restaurant, Vecchio Parioli, we usually start with a Kir Royale, then take three good courses (with choices), and plenty of wine. The tables decked with flora in our honour add to the celebration.


The author’s own balcony display in Gilbert House


During the evening the Summer Competition award certificates are presented for individual and house prize winners. It is fun as it is well done, and the evening can become somewhat raucous, however, the ambience achieved is that which you would expect from people basically interested in most of the same things as they communicate readily and with panache.


NATIONAL GALLERY where an opportunity for only 15 of our members takes place. We secure a National Gallery art historian to lecture on the floral content of works dating 1400 – 1900 by the most eminent western artists. The floral myths, hidden meanings, metaphors and techniques of artists are revealed. This year the main theme was landscape painting in Europe from The Baptism of Christ c.1415 by Piero Francesca to The Haywain 1821 by Constable. Supper is always taken afterwards in the Gallery Restaurant where our lecturer is there to answer, and pose, questions as a continuation of his method of lecturing within the gallery. In APRIL a TALK AND WALK is arranged. Most of us may regard Islington as the ‘Borough of Lost Causes’, however, for Liz Kessler this is not the case. She led us on a walk through EC1 New Deal for Communities Area looking at improvements that have been made to streets, parks and estates and the importance of planting to the transformation of areas that had previously been very bleak, run down and neglected.


Liz has been involved in this work and was accompanied by the gardener and a town planner from Madrid who was researching this type of urban transformation, and he was most impressed by these results.


Unsafe, unsightly landscaped areas had been transformed into inviting safe habitats shared by cyclists, pedestrians and children at play, with wonderful new playground areas attractively incorporated into the uplifting gardens. The horticultural aspects of the improvements were most impressive and the small group, after a walk of close on three hours declared themselves astonished by the projects which cost so little and achieved so much.


Our EARLY MAY visit was to KEW at the prime time to view Magnolias in


10


A Year with the Barbica T


bloom as well as early bulbs and trees coming into new leaf. Whenever a visit like this is undertaken we always use the services of an expert guide, so here again our group was delighted with the information imparted at the glorious beginning of the cycle of seasons, which despite their current irregular timings, are still apparent in this country. Some members who had not done so before visited Kew Palace and a late lunch was taken together seated in the Spring sunshine. The END OF MAY saw us for yet another year with the W00DLAND TRUST. This very worthwhile organisation, staffed by dedicated, hard-working people, strives to improve our environment and encourage participation in their projects in order to educate us in the art of appreciating the role of humans in the cycle of nature as a whole. A nationwide survey of United Kingdom orchards revealed that 50% of them were classified at ‘poor’, that is with poor quality and/or neglected trees caused by lack of maintenance and knowledge of tree management. The Trust’s response to this is to evolve a plan to help regenerate these orchards to prevent further deterioration and enable the fruit to be picked for sale in the UK instead of allowing it to be left to rot on the ground. So let’s help and say ‘goodbye’ to the tasteless apple imports and ‘hello’ to good Kentish and other county Cox’s Orange Pippins and the plethora of scrumptious British varieties. We were warmly welcomed this time at their largest development Heartwood Forest, 868 acres of ‘native’ trees, that is species recorded after the last Ice Age, and ancient woodland, which are areas that have never been ploughed, cleared or sprayed in the known history of the site.


Our erudite guides, with the help of large maps, showed areas of ancient hornbeam, which historically were used for charcoal and cog-wheels.


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