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How green is my alley
11:01am Monday 13th February 2012 in Gardening
URBAN alleyways in this country have often been seen as threatening places – dark, lined with brick walls or fences, with no colour and plenty of possibilities for crime.
Yet in certain areas greenfingered residents have made their alleyways a sight to behold, filled with plants which create a riot of colour and a heart-warming atmosphere, as far away from graffiti-land as you can get.
The Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) is now calling on communities to transform unsightly, neglected alleyways into green havens, championing the findings of a recent RHS report that shows the significant impact this sort of revival has on communities.
A survey of 231 gardening groups found neglected areas were often problematic because of crime and fear of crime. Disused alleyways were a particular concern because they’re a perfect access route for burglars.
Many councils run schemes to gate off problem alleyways and the impact this has had on crime has been significant in cities such as Cardiff, Bristol and Manchester.
According to the RHS report, in one Manchester street, 50 properties backed on to a four-way passage and were prone to burglary. It was gated off and residents planted it up, turning what was once a crime-ridden grotspot into a flourishing community haven where residents hold events and children play.
“A lot of groups that have renovated disused spaces such as alleyways which have been prone to vandalism and anti-social behaviour have reported that vandals sometimes continue but this is extremely short-lived,” says Stephanie Eynon, RHS community horticulture manager.
“If they steal planters, do graffiti or whatever, they soon notice that the planters are put back and the graffiti is removed – not by the council, but by residents. These once disused areas become lookedafter, used, lived-in, part of the community and vandals are put off by the fact there is a strong community presence.
“Groups report that vandals don’t return. Whether it’s through fear of being watched, the fact that there are people physically now in these areas is off-putting to them.”
The RHS It’s Your Neighbourhood campaign, part of Britain in Bloom, is offering advice on planting up neglected spaces like alleyways and also providing information on funding. There are already more than 1,000 registered IYN groups. To set up a new group or join an existing one, go to rhs.org.uk.
RHS Young Designer 2011 finalists Owen Morgan and Alexandra Froggatt offer the following tips: * A derelict alleyway can be taken on as a community project. Even on a shoestring budget, bright colours and simple raised beds can transform an area quickly.
* Green walling is an instant effect and can vastly increase your planting options and available area for planting in a limited space. Green wall systems lend themselves to the growing of ferns which are well suited to a damp, shaded alleyway wall. There are plenty of products on the market that utilise pockets or pouches with in-built irrigation systems.
* Take into account practical considerations. Speak to neighbours before embarking on any structural work. Take into consideration the Party Wall Act and contact a surveyor if in any doubt.
* Most alleyways require some degree of access. A good design should include a clear flat access path wide enough for wheelie bins, disabled access or buggies.
* Many alleyways will have a concrete-lined base and will therefore be unsuitable for conventional planting. Pots, planters and troughs are an ideal way of creating a strong design identity to the space while providing plenty of opportunity for planting.
* Climbers on funky trellis will also add vertical interest. Climbing hydrangeas are self clinging and highly shade tolerant.