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Union Street’s Urban Physic Garden nears completion

Volunteers are still needed to help complete a pop-up garden of medicinal plants in Union Street in time for its opening next weekend.

Union Street’s Urban Physic Garden nears completion
Union Street’s Urban Physic Garden nears completion

The site is the same as last year's Union Street Urban Orchard with the same Wayward Plants team masterminding the plan.

This year the message is 'urban well-being' says Rachel Milkulsky who is recruiting volunteers to make a garden "shaped by the hospital and the pharmacy" with a focus on medicinal plants and herbs that heal.

"It's a meditation on our relationship to plants," she adds. "We are using a poisoned soil which can't be used and turning it into something that can be by promoting health, well-being, relaxation and recreation."

She also stresses that the garden shows what can be done with reclaimed materials.

"Eveything on this site is donated, reclaimed, recycled and resourced and it will go back into being used again in our next project. That is an important message as well."

The garden team's advisors include Professor Peter Houghton of King’s College London's life sciences department, guerrilla gardener Richard Reynolds, Karen Howell from the Old Operating Theatre Museum & Herb Garret and Mary O’Connell of Bankside Open Spaces Trust.

"This project would not work without volunteers," says Rachel Milkulsky. "We plan to run a programme that volunteers will enjoy.

"The best thing about our volunteers is that they come from different groups. We have people from St Mungo's, people on corporate volunteer days, carpentery students, theatre design people, artists and architects.

"We'd really love to engage more with our neighbours," says Rachel who hopes to see residents dropping in to help with the construction and planting as well as enjoying the completed garden which opens on Saturday 11 June.

Donations of plants – such as sweet basil, chamomile, chervil, chilli pepper, coriander, dill, lavender, marjoram, marigold, sage and sorrel – are welcome. Other plants can be given for a plant wall.

The Urban Physic Garden, which will include a cafe, is due to remain open until Sunday 15 August. The space will be available to residents' groups and playgroups as a venue for events. After the summer the trees will be relocated to other SE1 gardens.

A book about last year's garden called The Union Street Urban Orchard: A Case Study of Creative Interim Use (£15) has been published by the Architecture Foundation. There are chapters by those who made it happen, DIY tips, recipes using the fruits of the orchard and a foreword by Channel 4 News presenter Jon Snow.

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