Blooming London: Gardens bloom on the tube – photo essay | london underground
Jhe first formal garden began in a London Underground station more than a century ago. Now there is an annual Underground In Bloom competition, organized by Transport for London (TfL), for the many stations that go green.
With plants grown in everything from used mayonnaise jars to old food delivery crates, makeshift station gardens are sprouting up around the capital, all managed by volunteer staff. Competition categories include Best Indoor Garden, Best Fruits and Vegetables, Best Hanging Baskets and Best Window Baskets.
The district railway company started the competition in 1910. Staff were given money to buy seeds and encouraged to grow plants. Planting was more formal (early winners included St James’s Park, Ealing Common and Ealing Broadway), but by 1925 there were 30 small gardens scattered along the railway line, according to Train Omnibus Tram magazine.
The article reads: “Train stations, with their bustle, are not ideal places to grow flowers. In many cases, trains rush within meters of carefully planned beds. It is therefore gratifying to note that beyond the pride of accomplishment that only gardeners can know, there are thousands of passengers who, in their daily round trips, must see the “splendor of these gardens” and admire them. »
Only 45% of the London Underground is actually underground. At Morden Tube Station, staff grow a variety of fruit and vegetables including cherries, potatoes, hot peppers and plums on a disused platform. Staff can go there to relax and have a quiet time while on duty.
In Acton Town, a disused platform has been transformed into a jungle of potted plants, which passengers can admire from across the tracks while waiting for a train. Outside Arsenal station and the Elizabeth Line station entrance in Seven Kings, Ilford, an eclectic collection of pots frame the entrances.
James Elliot, who works for TfL at Goodge Street station, began planting a disused space hidden from the main platform in 2019. He brought in compost using a suitcase, found planters and boxes distributed on Freecycle and worked on the garden before and after his shift.
Today, the garden has dozens of plants, including geraniums, marigolds, wisteria, holly, nasturtiums, and a box of wildflowers with cornflowers and poppies. Vegetables grown at the station are shared among staff, and this year’s harvest included tomatoes, cucumbers, beets, lettuce, Swiss chard – and even apples.
Elliot waited until the gardens were judged in early August before harvesting the vegetables. “Harvesting is my favorite thing; when you start growing vegetables, you realize how difficult it is. You appreciate the time and expertise that has gone into delivering the food we eat,” he says.
The competition rewards London Underground staff who have helped plant and maintain the gardens, making travel more enjoyable for others. “When I go out to stations, customers tell me how much it brightens up their day. On some occasions they have even volunteered to help while waiting for their train,” says Richard Baker, TfL customer and community ambassador for the Elizabeth Line.
The winners of this year’s competition were:
Best Seasoned Entry – South Tottenham;
Best fruits and vegetables – Morden;
Best Environment Entry – Acton Town;
Best Hanging Baskets, Bins & Planters – Neasden Depot;
Best Community Entry – Ruislip;
Best Cultivated Garden (Station) – Kentish Town;
Best Cultivated Garden (Depot) – Barking Train Crew Accommodation;
Best Theme (Jubilation) – Seven Kings;
Best Newcomer – Walthamstow Bus Station;
Best Indoor Garden – Hammersmith (District & Piccadilly);
Art in Bloom – Susan Buck for her depiction of Acton Town Railway Station;
Best of Show – Kentish Town.