This is the last week of my residency, and the pop-up garden in the Newcastle Common window has gradually inched into autumn colours. The window display is full of Chrysanthemums in golds and yellows. They are joined by the wonderfully named hyssop variety Agastache ‘Mango Tango’, because of its mauve and orange flowers. There’s also a Rudbeckia fulgida ‘American Gold Rush’, the popular prairie flower. Its Latin name hints at its bright yellow colour with fulgida meaning “I flash, glare, shine”. Autumn is also represented by seasonal gourds and pumpkins, and some decorations made from leaves and teasel seed heads.
I’ve been bringing together drawings, based on the chats I had at the beginning of the residency, when I was temporarily a guest stallholder on Newcastle Market. They’ve become quite a miscellany of tips, lore and stories, and I’ve created what I call ‘memory gardens’ to store them in. I’ve enjoyed laying out the stories along with garden imagery, or images inspired by the stories themselves. For example, one visitor spoke to me about taking cuttings when she was on holiday, and her technique for keeping cuttings alive in her hotel room until she could take them home and pot them up. The resulting plants then reminded her of those holiday destinations and happy times.
In the shop, we’re into the last week of public facing days. Visitors have been printing little seed-saving envelopes, and can takeaway pumpkins seeds to grow next spring. I’ve also been giving away seeds and instructions for growing microgreens. This is a lovely simple way to grow a vegetable garnish. Soak the seed mix overnight, then sprinkle the seeds into a container (washed takeaway boxes or microwave meal dishes are ideal) lined with wetted kitchen roll. Place on a window sill, out of direct sunlight. The seeds will sprout very quickly, and the microgreens are ready to harvest in a matter of 10-14 days. Harvest by snipping the tops off, washing them then using them to garnish any meal. These ‘window salads’ are very nutritious, as you eat the seed leaves. I’m giving away a mixture of broccoli, alfalfa and beetroot seeds, but other delicious seeds suitable for growing this way are: basil, cress, radish and coriander (my favourite for garnishing Indian-inspired dishes). Even if you don’t have a garden, you can easily grow a few leaves to enhance your cooking!
It’s been lovely to be ‘artist gardener for the growing season’ for Newcastle Common, and wonderful to meet so many visitors to Newcastle-under-Lyme market. I’ve loved hearing your gardening stories, and watching the town centre coming back to life as Covid restrictions eased. Good luck to the next artists that are moving into the shop, and thank you to Deb and Kat and all the team at Appetite, and Nick Moore at BID and all those involved on the market.
All best wishes