Worn-out wellies, battered Belfast sinks, empty olive oil cans and broken buckets … most gardeners are well versed in the joys of container gardening and the art of recycling. But how many of us would think of using a conked-out car as a vehicle for a wildlife-friendly planting scheme (or indeed have the space for one?)
It’s a concept however that made perfect sense to ceramic artist Adele Howitt and landscape architect Fiona Weir, whose ‘Seeds for the Desert’ installation at last year’s Freedom Festival in Hull, showcased five such ‘car-gardens’. With bonnets and boots re-engineered with bee-friendly plants, the eye-catching crocks provided tasty temporary beelines for foraging insects and highlighted the need for bee-friendly planting schemes. Although the EU’s recent decision to restrict neonicotinoid pesticides has been a rare piece of good news for pollinators, bees are having a tough time generally, with wild populations in rapid decline. An inspired partnership between art and science, ‘Seeds for the Desert’ aims to redress the balance by creating buffer zones for pollinators in urban areas and insect friendly gardens in ‘unexpected scenarios’.
For the Chelsea Fringe, Adele and Fiona will be parking their latest ‘bee banger’ at the Horniman Museum in Forest Hill (perhaps not such an unexpected scenario given the Horniman’s own revitalised garden).
As with their previous project, the vehicle has been sourced from a local scrapyard (“it’s all about sustainability in the widest sense!” says Adele), and the car they’ve found for the Fringe couldn’t be more appropriate – a London taxi cab.
The taxi will arrive on site the day before the start of the Fringe, and will be parked and prepped with assistance from the Horniman’s helpful team of technicians (engineless cars can be tricky to manoeuvre). The vehicle will then be decorated and planted in Adele’s and Fiona’s inimitable style, using a handpicked selection of plants such as verbena, buddleia, echinacea and geranium, all of which are particularly appealing to pollinating insects.
If their experience at the Freedom Festival is anything to go, by Adele’s and Fiona’s installation should get the Horniman’s bee population buzzing with appreciation in next to no time. Bees forage within 3 miles and can fly up to 5 miles if food is short and at the Freedom Festival, Adele recalls that Hull’s bees and hover flies were “positively showing off” within 3 to 4 hours of installation.
Inspired by biodiversity, bees and art, Adele and Fiona are looking forward to their Fringe debut – “it’s the perfect festival for us as it’s really about the alternative message. Biodiversity is the future so why not plant food for the bees as they do all the work for us!”
Seeds for the Desert can be seen at the Horniman Museum from 18 May – 9 June, and is sponsored by sponsors Freedom Ltd (http://www.freedomfestival.co.uk/), Kingston upon Hull City Council (http://www.hullcc.gov.uk) , the Horniman Museum (www.horniman.ac.uk), and Walk the Plank (http://www.walktheplank.co.uk/).