THE VITAL GREEN
156 Armagh Street, Christchurch CBD • 2017-2018
This incredible opportunity was chanced upon for Plant Gang. We were called to activate the austere and uncreative gardens on an air filled spot on Manchester Street. We planted a diverse and non segregated range of natives, herbs, insect food and human food. The name is a revival of ‘The Village Green’ a special and sacred space that is becoming extinct in our modern times. Once people met, socialised, conversed, played, ate and rested in these public spaces, without the need a need to money. I wished to reactive this notion but with the urgency and vitality this world needs. To ride out the coming climate calamity, we need to plants an abundance of plants - not just for fashion or ease of care - but to survive and to thrive.
• 156 ARMAGH STREET •
The above photos show the site before we got stuck in. I had a great desire to create innovative and regenerative gardening installations - which bridged the gap between this austere and relatively uninspiring landscaping and the deeply important notion of caring for our land and lives through planting a diverse and useful range of plants.
I put through a proposal to completely transform the astro turf, surrounding gardens and furniture. This went through without a hitch initially yet we meet many a road block with the neighbouring properties who wished to keep the space austere and formal. Whilst a frustration road block, we found a middle ground to keep both parties happy.
Over four months a group of people planted the garden in an abundant and inspiring way. We used plants both native and introduced species to create an abundant garden that serves the earth and its inhabitants. It remains today and gives joy to many people passing through the space.
LEFT: The small range of organic matter found onsite pre work. You will see a range of natives - which are great - but lets be honest, diversity is better.
BELOW: These were the initial designs that proposed a transformation of the space through the building of furniture that united both plants and people. Something severely lacking in contemporary urban design.
• PLACE • ARMAGH STREET •
8 JANUARY 2018
Due to waiting waiting waiting for permission to begin the major Vital Green garden, we were able to populate 12 planter boxes that the Christchurch City Council commissioned Neil Dawson to make. In these, we transferred the natives that had previously habituated the major gardens and added in some lovely lavender, calendula, alyssum, sorrel, valerian and more yummy plants. To recreate a natural landscape, river rocks surrounded the base of the plants.
1 MARCH 2018
A few months into the planting, things had begun to take root. It really is a humbling process to see a small seedlign sprout into a large, rambunctious bush. The Feverfew below right grew to 1x2 metres over a few months and kept vases full of their delightful little daisy blooms. About April, I trimmed them back and a second flush came away, leaving more food for our lovely bee allies.
The little path meandering through the garden was installed to draw people in amongst the plants. Despite the fact that the Vital Green garden exists only in boarders around a much larger space, there was still a wonderful opportunity to weave plants amongst people. As we become more urbanised, green spaces become smaller and do not offer opportunity for people to soak up the many health benefits of plants. Just a few minutes with a branch dangling over your shoulder or with delicious smelling flowers wafting past you can vastly improve your vibe.
9 MAY 2019 • PROGRESS REPORT
I (Liv) moved to Hawkes Bay at the beginning of 2019 so have been away from my lovely garden for too long. A return trip in May 2019 I was met with a wonderful, scruffy jungle of glory! We had a fair bit of dead growth, some dead plants and a few weedy weeds to remove but all in all, the garden was above my expectations. Some amazing growth has been put on by so so many plants and they are growing into a beautiful, diverse, textural composition.
Salvia apiana or white sage is a native to North America - specifically in the southwestern California in the dry desert area where they have grown wild for thousands of years. First Nations people burn the dried leaves in smoke ceremonies to cleanse and purify people, surroundings and objects. There is great threat to this plant as it is being over-harvested to feed the burgeoning ‘new age spiritual’ market. It is not recommend that one purchases commercial white sage smudges - instead, use locally found plants in your cleansing wands. Grow your own plant and harvest respectfully. This plant at The Vital Green is able to be harvest - just pick a few of the largest leaves and leave some for others.
• PROCESS AND PEOPLE •
We embarked on many a mission to fulfill this vision.
Below are images from some of the collective efforts it took to create The Vital Green. In the translation of a idea into a tangible, physical thing, invisible webs of moments, conversations, movements and actions are woven by people. These are often subtle, unseen and infinite but irrefutably valuable.
We had fun, went on adventures, we collectively built a world where people honored each others ideas, knowledge, perspective and ideas. This democratic process of collaboration is a vital skill in this world of competition and closed-offness.
4 NOVEMBER 2018 • NEW BRIGHTON COMMUNITY GARDEN PLANT SALE
The New Brighton Community Garden has legendary status in Otutahi. Started in 2005, it sought to serve the lower income families of greater New Brighton through teaching them how and giving them access to fresh, organic vegetables. 14 years on it is a thriving hub of activity which hosts working bees a couple of times a week - offering fresh veggies for volunteers time.
An annual plant sale brings in the financial support needed to continue their excellent work. All seedlings are grown onsite and lovingly cared for throughout the year. They are of excellent quality and the wide variety of heritage and unique vegetables and flowers is so exciting.
6 NOVEMBER 2017 • COLLECTING ROCKS FROM NAPE NAPE
Alex commissioned Michael to make a mobile for his daughter Hazel. Michael wanted to venture north to Nape Nape beach to collect some weathered limestone for this creation. I had the vehicle so decided to grab a few myself.
At the river mouth of the Hurunui these pancake like stones congregate after being eroded out of the limestone hillsides of North Canterbury. A fabled wine region that owes much of its terroir to these bleached and crumbling pieces of earth. Many of the smaller, harder greywacke rocks were also so smooth, the relentless east coast waves having pummelled them into smooth disks. Deep bush hangs just above the edge of the beach and offered a symphony of buzzing pollinators on the sunny day we went there.
5 DECEMBER 2017 • COLLECTING TAGASASTAE
On one stifling summer day, Jess, Anna and Liv seeked the solace of the cool shade and Tagasastae! To build up the dense, heavy clay in our CBD garden we collected various organic matter from about Christchurch. Horse manure, seaweed, grass clippings, coffee husks and these green tagasatae leaves. Tagasastae is a legume that grows in a range of different soils without much fuss. This pioneering plant quickly occupies a space offering shade to the soil that also benefits from the stabilisation from the plants roots. Nitrogen is offered to the ground when leaves are drops because as a legume, Tagasastae converts air-borne nitrogen into a form usable to other plants. All whilst feeding the bees. This is a seriously great plant to grow to improve soil health, offer you compostable materials and it is good animal fodder. This stand is growing in New Brighton along the estuary. It is such a valuable resource.
LYTTELTON MARKET PLANTS •
14 DECEMBER 2017 • MULCH DIGGERS
The soil onsite was a thick dense water-logged clay. Within civil plantings, not much attention seems to be given to this vital aspect of garden. The soil is the back bone of a plant and dictates how well it will grow and how it will be able to survive times of struggle - pests, drought, too little sun and the like. With a heavy clay soil like this, many minerals are present but the tiny particles are packed so tight that very little air is present. 50% of soil is actually empty space that can be filled by air and water. Both are vital for the health of the roots and the survival of the plants.
6 JANUARY 2018 • SOIL SORT
When soil is not cared for a garden is dead on its feet. If the natural breakdown process can’t happen, the garden will loose is vitality and zest and stop growing. When you add materials to the earth that have come from the earth, you are stimulating the microorganisms that live beneath the soil. They are responsible for breaking down matter (soil factories - IMPORTANT). This breakdown process results in the transmutation of minerals from the dead matter to the live plant, resulting in healthier and robust crops. A healthy soil is more able to absorb water, slowing its flow from the sky to the sea and making it more available to the beings the soil ecosystem supports.
There is a whole heap more magic that happens when you are caring for your ground - its a wonderful topic to understand! Here are some links for you to learn more:
We embarked on a soil healing process where we added:
PEA STRAW: dry carbon matter that ‘digests’ the green nitrogen matter we also added. As this is a legume plant, it also provides nitrogen.
COMPOST: Made from CHCH organic waste collection. Adds microorganisms and nutrients to the plants. Like soil but more potent.
GREEN ORGANIC MATTER:
COFFEE BEAN HUSKS
17 JANUARY 2018 • DARLING DYLAN
THIS was one special day when Darling Dylan came to play. I remember being flustered - there was many a flustered moment behind the scenes of The Vital Green. On this particular day it was about to rain and I was just DONE! Dylan came to the rescue. Not only did I gratefully receive his physical help in planting some lovely plants - but his encouragement, kind words, gentle and comforting vibes AND his knowledge were both a balm and a buoy to continue the good work! He is SO knowledgeable.
A fourth generation vegetarian who grew up on a biodynamic block in Nelson - this dude knows things about the earth that would make you swoon. Understanding the systems and processes active in the cyclical rhythm of nature breeds a deep and unshakeable reverence. When we are lit up by the perfectly orchestrated parts who make up this whole earth we think and act with more care and intention. Ever grateful to Dylan for making my earth heart expand!