Our Gardens at Sycamore House and John Betts House are a platform for workshops and social events enabling people to work in their own part of the garden, or to simply relax and enjoy…

Secret Gardens

With acknowledgement to the Open Garden Square’s blog “Tales from Duck Island”

You could easily pass by Sycamore House in Hammersmith without any inkling of the garden delights created by the tenants inside. An old garden with mature shrubs and planting was here prior to 2012 , but it had to make way for new building and accommodation.  However, the benefits of a garden was not forgotten in the redevelopment. Sycamore House’s Community Gardener, Jackie Thompson, set herself the task of designing an even better garden, and, with the help of the architects, a delightful winding lane of plants now weaves its way between the sheltered housing.The new garden is only five years old and has already won the Challenge Cup for large community gardens in almshouses run by the London Gardens’ Society not once, but two years in a row, which is a tribute to the efforts of Jackie and her team of volunteer garden residents. Founded on the principle of successional planting, there is colour whatever the weather.In November the Beautyberry (Callicarpa) was showing off its purple fruit, perfectly offset by a planting of pink neriums. A red salvia was in bloom not far away from this arbour and throughout plants have been carefully chosen to reflect scent, touch, colour and seasons. Throughout the winding walk a variety of different fruits pop up out of the border –  redcurrants, grapes, strawberries, kiwi fruits and an espalier-trained apple tree sit cheek by jowl with flowers, shrubs and grasses. Despite designing the garden from scratch, Jackie does not dogmatically follow a set planting pattern and encourages the personalisation of the borders by the residents.Active involvement is key. She stresses that this is not an old people’s home and it certainly feels very different. Speaking about the garden Jackie said “ I’ve set out to create an oasis of tranquillity which blends colour from flowering plants with that from fruit. With the help of some very dedicated residents here, we have made a garden which is both relaxing and interesting.”

10 minutes further down Goldhawk Road, John Betts House garden – award winner in London Garden Society’s small community garden category – offers a very different feel.  The garden’s centrepiece is a series of arches which were planted to create a blowsy, flowing feel, with the plants and grasses spilling over the central path, brushing by visitors as they pass. John Betts House was constructed in 1964 by Hammersmith United Charities and extensively refurbished in 1998.  Built up around an inner, secluded garden, it has presented its challenges to Jackie and her resident garden volunteers, as the garden area was used to dump the rubble from the building work – so the digging is hard.

Given the challenges of the soil here, the gardeners originally concluded that the only way was up and perfected the art of growing flowers in pots. The pots and hanging baskets which adorn the balconies overlooking the main, internal garden courtyard were still blooming in a very balmy December.  And the horticultural endeavours of the residents are being recognised locally – last year John Betts came third in the small community garden category of the London Garden Society Competition – catching up on its successful sister garden, Sycamore House. Residents benefit by having a designated area for growing vegetables in raised beds so there are strawberries and vegetables aplenty in the summer.

Hammersmith Reflections – Award Winning Secret Gardens Open Saturday 9 June

Hammersmith United Charities is thrilled to announce the charity has won two awards at the London Gardens Society Competition for each of its two sheltered housing schemes for older people.  Sycamore House won third place for the large community gardens at the awards ceremony. (more…)

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Enigma Event – Polish Heritage Day

We were up against the Royal wedding, the FA cup final (featuring Chelsea), battery powered technology and Ikea flat pack garden furniture…it didn’t feel promising! But the sun shone, we viewed “the dress” on our mobile phones and we were enchanted by the hospitality of the organisers of Polish Heritage day in Ravenscourt Park.

This Enigma lunch took place in a tent on a drop in basis. The revelation was how to make people laugh – genuinely surprised, proper laughs – directly ask them to sit at a (slightly wobbly, bilious orange) table, eat bread and cheese and talk to someone they don’t know. For those who dared, this was everything we wanted from an Enigma event; people sharing their stories, their languages and their experiences.

We focused the lunch around the republication of “Passport to Exile”, memories of Polish migrants in the 1980s. And around an artist in residence who shared his art with us during the day. Technology failure denied us a Polish musician but instead we enjoyed – for the first time in this series of events – the conversation and enthusiasm of some delightful children.

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Irish Enigma Event

Serenaded by footstompingly enjoyable traditional Irish musicians, we enjoyed the hospitality of the new Irish Cultural Centre for our third Enigma lunch.

The hall was full for the occasion with guests drawn from the Cultural Centre, our residents, friends of the charity and neighbours who found out about the event from Next Door.

As hoped, the conversation flowed, sparked to some extent by responses to our republication of the reminiscences of Irish migrants first published in the 1980s. Guests were delighted to read the stories; some remembered the original project and, for others, the stories newly discovered, very much tuned in to their own memories.

We ended the event with a riveting and entertaining story by a professional story teller who had the whole hall enthralled and entertained with her tale of her life as the daughter of a small town shopkeeper  – and more seriously with her thoughts about “community”  – very much the theme of our Enigma lunches.

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Hammersmith Reflections – People who aren’t like us

I was sitting in the sunshine on a bench in Ravenscourt Park having a coffee when I noticed people waving from another bench on the far side of the Tea House. It was Diane, who lives locally near Hammersmith Grove, and a couple of other people.

Diane comes over. We haven’t seen each other for a while. She’s pleased to see me and shrieks in delight.  I am delighted to bump in to her too. Diane smiles. You should see that smile; (more…)

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