THE JOURNAL FOR THE SOCIETY OF GARDEN DESIGNERS

Designers and communities working together

Photo: Sophie Goldsworthy


As well as running her practice, Kate Jury is involved with a community garden and workshop project for asylum seekers


Pre-Registered SGD Member Kate Jury is the principal designer at Oxford Garden Partners. As well as working with design clients in the Oxford area, she has also been involved with the Barracks Lane Community Garden for the past 10 years and has been helping them with a recent Lottery-funded project looking into the heritage of common plants.


HOW DID THE BARRACKS LANE COMMUNITY GARDEN COME ABOUT?

A group of local residents took over the councilowned site in 2003, with the aim of transforming what was a derelict, hostile space, frequented by drug users and prostitutes, into a working garden for the community. The garden is in one of the livelier areas of Oxford, with a culturally diverse population, and it is now open every weekend from March to October for anyone to come and garden. During the week, it is used primarily by community groups and schools.


WHAT IS THE HERITAGE OF COMMON PLANTS PROJECT?

The project, supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund, focuses on the cultural and productive heritage of five common garden and hedgerow plants: stinging nettle, mint, lavender, dog-rose and elder. One aim of the project is to create a unique herbarium for the garden, and we have been compiling the garden users’ experiences and memories of these common plants, as well as collecting samples from the garden. Last year, we also ran a number of workshops and events to show how these plants were traditionally used.


TELL US ABOUT YOUR INVOLVEMENT IN THE PROJECT

I first started working with the Community Garden as a trustee, and later helped the team there finance various projects and provided design and horticultural advice. I have also worked with a group of unaccompanied young asylum seekers on the Heritage of Common Plants project. They are aged between 14 and 18 and the project formed part of their support programme. We introduced them to some of Oxford’s beautiful plant-related heritage sites and collections, and held workshops for them in the Community Garden.


HOW DID THE ASYLUM SEEKERS BENEFIT FROM THE SCHEME?

These young people have fled areas like Syria, Iraq, Iran and Eritrea, and most are young men. It was amazing to see their enthusiasm and I got a huge sense of satisfaction teaching them about the garden plants and taking them on tours of Oxford Natural History Museum and the Botanic Gardens. They learned how to make cord and yarn from nettles, distil lavender using medieval methods, and even make hand cream with essential oils, which I think reminded them of the women in their families back home. We are now looking to get more funding to repeat the project this year.


Photo: Mim Saxl

If you would like to volunteer at the Barracks Lane Community Garden, go to www.barrackslanegarden.org.uk  

To contact Kate, visit www.oxfordgardenpartners.com