Islington People: “Urban Eden” blossoms thanks to Naomi Schillinger

Vibrant flower displays and thriving vegetable patches aren’t commonplace on London’s residential streets, but one small corner of Finsbury Park is blooming at every turn.

That’s down to professional gardener Naomi Schillinger and her neighbour Nicolette Jones, who set up a community horticultural project called the Blackstock Triangle Gardeners (BTG) to improve the appearance of their area and get residents into growing their own produce.

Green-fingered Naomi, 48, of Ambler Road, oversees the gardening while Nicolette, of Plimsoll Road, spreads the word through regular newsletters – and the result is gardens in several streets brimming with plants, fruit and veg, as well a closer-knit community.

The project evolved from Islington in Bloom 2009 during which free packs of wild flower seeds to grow in tree pits were handed out. After seeing the results, Naomi and Nicolette entered 10 houses into the competition, taking away five awards.

They then took part in a vegetable growing project, delivering growbags and seeds for free to neighbours.

The project was born and has continued to grow since, receiving funding from Capital Growth and Islington Community Chest.

In its first year of vegetable growing there were 50 neighbours involved and last year there were 100, with more expected to take part in 2012.

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Naomi also tends to the gardens of those unable to do it themselves and spruces up any unkempt spots in the neighbourhood she finds. There are also regular cake events for neighbours to meet and talk about the project.

Naomi, who also writes a popular blog on urban gardening, said: “It’s such a fun thing to do. Whatever you put in comes back threefold.

“The greening up of the area has been amazing. Tree pits are overflowing with gorgeous flowers and many neighbours have taken ownership of a tree pit, creating wonderful mini gardens all year round.

“When you garden in the front, neighbours stop and chat and it was wonderful come July to see so many growbags full of runner beans, tomatoes, courgettes and Jerusalem artichokes. The area had turned into an urban Eden.”

Naomi continued: “The area has become a friendlier place to live and this in turn creates feelings of wellbeing and safety. So many people have really embraced the project which reduces social isolation and makes people feel part of the community.”

She added: “I think our project shows that people do want to get to know their neighbours and growing veg is a fantastic way of bringing people together.”

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