Thursday, 9 September 2010

Coop Garden of Thoughts on flickr!!


You may have noticed a flickr photostream appear on the right hand side of this blog page... If you click on it then you will be able to read all of the comments gathered through the Stirchley Thought Exchange event outside the coop back in June this year.

There's some really interesting comments - that Stirchley generally needs some TLC, some charity shops, more support for independent businesses, more community activities, and our community baths and Victorian architecture desperately needs saving.

I am in the process of scanning in all the thought flowers, butterflies, blades of grass and birds completed at the last Stirchley Community Market, and will be uploading these soon too! It was really nice to see some of you who had visited the Exchange back in June come back and say hello. I hope you all enjoy reading each other's inspiring reactions to your urban environment.

Happy reading!

Thursday, 26 August 2010

More market mop up!

More market pics!! And this is an interesting write up on the market, the Tourist vs Traveller blog, and includes a pic of the exchange! We're famous!

Market Success!

Hello, and thank you to everyone who attended the Thought Exchange at the second Stirchley Community Market. Was lovely to share the exchange with you! As well as swapping thoughts for plants from the local area (only a few left now - no one seems keen on the poor lonely privet...), I am pleased to report that there was take up of the hollow stem bug houses, and I had one taker for the very interesting bricks taken from vacant land at the bottom of Hazelwell Lane.

I have included some visuals for your perusal (spot the bricks!)...

Monday, 23 August 2010

Japanese Knotweed: usually very bad, but sometimes good?

Check this out! This easy to make Knotweed soup could be on the cards for a rainy day!

Other knotweed recipes include:

Steamed Oriental Japanese Knotweed
Orange and Japanese Knotweed Cobbler
Japanese Knotweed and Sweet Cicely Pudding
Japanese Knotweed Oatmeal Crumble
Japanese Knotweed Drumlanrig Pudding
Endive and Japanese Knotweed Gratin
Lentil Curry with Japanese Knotweed and Sweet Potatoes
Stewed Japanese Knotweed and Angelica
Carrot Cake with Japanese Knotweed
Japanese Knotweed Eve's Pudding
Strawberry Knotweed Pie

Amazing. Let me know if you make any of these, I'd like to try some! Especially the oatmeal crumble, and lentil curry...

Bug Houses and Breathing Places

Thought I would bring these lovely little booklets to your attention (I will have some to give away at the market)... packed full of information and ideas for supporting wildlife in your local area... and beautifully designed. For more info see BBC Breathing Places web pages...

The bug homes on this website look much more professional than mine! And check out these ones on RSPB's site... It says on there "Retain natural features for beneficial insects. Dead stems are good for over wintering adults or larvae. The hollow stems of herbaceous plants, or shrubs such as elder or buddleia are particularly useful." I did look at using buddleia, but their stems are full of pith, which would take ages to push out. Maybe I should have a go...

The bug house pictured above is my attempt, made from last year's dead Japanese Knotweed stems, taken from the car park of the former Kwik Save in Stirchley.

Sunday, 22 August 2010

Stirchley Thought Exchange at August 24th's Community Market!

Me again!

Short notice I know, for which I apologise for, but Stirchley Thought Exchange will be making its second public appearance in the area at the next Stirchley Community Market, this Tuesday 24th August, 4pm - 8pm on the car park of Stirchley United Working Men's Club (Pershore Road).

Previous participant's views on life in our area will be exhibited, as well as my mini wild-flower box garden, and the Stirchley Seedlings map capturing where everyone who's been involved in the project so far has travelled from, and their favourite plant.

You will be invited to exchange your thoughts with either a plant taken from a derelict area in Stirchley; an insect house (made from Stirchley plant stems), and possibly other locally sourced items that reflect the potential regeneration of the area...

In addition there will be commemorative badges available to mark the Thought Exchange's presence at the market (see the designs above!)

Hope to see you there on Tuesday. Fingers crossed for good weather!

Hello!! Its been over a month since my last post... so much has happened in Stirchley during this time! The first community market attracted national as well as local media coverage; the houses in Hazelwell Lane have had additional high security metal panels added (making it ultra difficult to access their gardens to check out any more interesting garden plants...), and the Thought Exchange has evolved, ever so slightly... opening up the scope of the project to supporting sustainable natural habitats and local wildlife. Still plant related, but encompassing all those bugs and creatures that thrive on these plants and urban environments, as well as taking an interest in the plants themselves.

Still working on finalising how this will work... I'm thinking something along the lines of exchanging your thoughts about Stirchley for a bundle of hollow stems (locally sourced) that ladybirds, solitary bees, earwigs and other 'creepys' will be most thankful for. The menu of stems so far includes, controversially, Japanese Knotweed (very dead... last year's stems...), Himalayan Balsam, and Cow Parsnip/ common hogweed (dried stems that have gone to seed). If you know of any other locally growing hollow stemmed plants that could be used for insect homes let me know!

The pic is me fashioning some cow parsnip seed heads. They are such an impressive structure! For those conservationists among you, I took them from an area along the River Rea that had many, many cow parsley/common hogweed seed heads, thus not impacting greatly on their reproduction cycle...

Over and out for now anyway!

Saturday, 17 July 2010

ENCOUNTERS: A Little Patch Of Ground

This is an interesting art project - just missed it at The Point in Doncaster - it finished 18th July... for more information click here...

Since April, Encounters have been working with fifteen participants aged 12 - 60 from across Doncaster to grow a unique vegetable garden and create a multi-media performance. The group has met every week to share time, food, reflections, ideas, fears and hopes. The Little Patch of Ground performance will reflect their personal stories and relationships with the wider natural world through a cross-fertilisation of soil, images, edible produce, objects, words and songs.

A Little Patch Of Ground is free and suitable for all ages. Please reserve a seat from The Point on 01302 341662.

A Little Patch of Ground has been devised by Encounters’ Creative Director Ruth Ben-Tovim and Project Associate Anne-Marie Culhane. It was first seen in Liverpool at the Bluecoat in 2009. Each year the project will take root in a different part of the country, heading for London in 2011.

A Little Patch of Ground is funded by Arts Council England, Yorkshire and produced in association with darts (Doncaster Community Arts).

Stirchley Community Market!


Whilst pondering on the next steps of the Stirchley Thought Exchange, I would like to take the opportunity to promote the first community market in Stirchley... interestingly from the feedback received through the Thought Exchange, many of you said you wanted to support local businesses and see more community activities in the area, so this community market is spot on in taking the first steps to turing this vision into reality... read on for more information about the market...

Stirchley Happenings has joined forces with Loaf, South Birmingham Food Co-op and Birmingham Town Centre Partnership to organise Birmingham’s first ever community market in Stirchley later this month.

Stirchley Community Market will open for the first time on Tuesday 27th July outside Stirchley United Working Mens Club on the Pershore Road from 4-8pm, and will return for August and September. It will feature stalls selling wholefoods, bread, hot curry, wood-fired pizza, artisan preserves, cupcakes, local fruit and vegetables, and local arts and crafts. The market will give the local community, as well as commuters on their way home from work, an opportunity to find out what Stirchley has to offer, meet some excellent food producers and craft makers from within Birmingham, and pick up some tasty groceries for their weekly shop.

Stirchley Happenings will be running the arts and crafts stall, with items from local artists.

For updates, news and more information on the market, visit

I will be supporting my colleagues at Stirchley Happenings on the day, so I hope to see you there.

Saturday, 19 June 2010

Hello there, sorry not been in touch for a few days - I am hoping to work on this blog much more after I have handed in my final uni essay in July, so I look forward to then!

In the meantime, check out this website, the background on something dear to many Stirchley resident's hearts - as testified by many of the comments left on the thought flowers - Tescopoly... I didn't know there was a website. I hope you find it informative.

Friday, 11 June 2010

Stirchley plants feature in city centre artwork 'An Incidental Estate'

You might be interested in attending this - it is one of a handful of artworks that will be shown in car parking bays in the city centre called 'An Incidental Estate', part of the wider activity 'Roadworks' that is taking place as part of the ongoing drive for the title of City of Culture.

It will be taking place on Monday 14th June - from 11am until 6.30pm outside RBS on Colmore Row - the work has been curated by Trevor Pitt (of 'Soft Bench' fame) and Carolyn Morton.

I have lent some of the plants that had been rescued from gardens of the derelict houses in Hazelwell Lane, that formed Stirchley Thought Exchange, to the artwork for the day, so that their stories can be shared with residents from further afield.

More about An Incidental Estate:
Plants, turf and mulch have been borrowed from the back gardens and parks of Birmingham for a day to create a suburban garden in the heart of the city. Trevor Pitt and Carolyn Morton are on hand to give guided tours of The Estate, which will feature plants grown by students at the Horticultural Training School in Kings Heath Park, plants from gardens of derelict houses from the Stirchley Thought Exchange project by Roxie Collins, turf from Kings Norton, Soft Bench knitted by the ladies of Glebe Farm and The Estate flag, specially designed by Kate Pemberton. To mark the occasion visitors are invited to use flowers and wool to craft a personalised buttonhole as a memento of the day.

I hope you are able to visit the garden... I am certain that it will be an inspiring gem in the midst of the lunchtime army of grey business suits! They wont know what's hit them!

More pics!

What a beautiful sunny day was Saturday

Sorry it has taken me so long to upload these photos, but here - a visual depiction of what happened on Saturday...

Sunday, 6 June 2010

Say it with flowers craft activity...

On Thursday afternoon I enjoyed the company of thee young adults and their mothers at the 'Say it with Flowers' children's craft activity at Stirchley Library.

It was a beautiful sunny day, perfect for parks rather than indoor craft activities! But still, three very creative individuals made flowers and butterflies in the Stirchley Thought Exchange theme. We had interesting discussions about 'Rocket Flowers' (buddleias), and some wonderful imaginative flowers were created, which ended up with more of a mechanical/ space theme following from these discussions... We also had a lovely tissue paper butterfly creation from an enthusiastic 2 year old, who had just learned the word 'amazing'.

Later on Thursday evening, I was walking back from the mac and just happened to see this very same butterfly creation blu-tacked up in a window. A very touching way to end the day!

Thank you all for attending, and thank you to the Library staff, I hope you all enjoyed it!

Thank you!

Hello there, sorry I've been a bit quiet with the blog and answering emails and facebook messages in the last couple of days... I had been very busy preparing for yesterday's event.

Thank you to all of you who came along and either stopped for a chat to see what was going on, or shared your thoughts in exchange for a plant and its story. I'm yet to unpack everything but am very much looking forward to making a nice cup of tea and reading through all your comments and memories.

Very soon I will upload some of the photos and and give more of an insightful update as how the day went... but in the meantime I would like to say thank you to the following people (in no particular order):

Matt Powell (Town Centre Manager) and Selly Oak Constituency staff for their support in answering queries and giving permissions

John Boyle, Matt, Andy and the other duty managers at the Coop Superstore in Stirchley for their enthusiasm and support

Sam at Touchstone for granting permission to remove plants from gardens and car parks

Ann, Denise and everyone at the Stirchley Library

Chris, Gen and Tom at Stirchley Happenings for practical help - and Chris for volunteering on the day

Pete, Mick and everyone at Stirchley Neighbourhood Forum for spreading the word and their support

Carla Smith, Jessie Cape and Neil Winkles for volunteering on the day and taking photos

Nerys James for the tips on graphic design

My mother Mary for listening

My colleagues at work, especially Debbie, Adrian, Karen, Pat and Helen for listening to all my project updates and offering advice

The Ranger Service: Adam for his support and assistance, and Steve for all the leaflets!

Hazelwell Lane neighbours Martin and Tracey

A huge thank you goes to my father Martin for his botanical knowledge and practical support throughout the project

Thank you to all the businesses/organisations who helped by advertising the event and for taking an interest in it

Thanks to everyone in the facebook group who gave their ideas/ links for the project

And again, thank you to all the community and visitors to the area who participated on the day, and to Tony of Friends of Cannon Hill Park for volunteering

And thanks to everyone else.... I hope I've not missed anyone out!

Will catch up with you soon...

Wednesday, 2 June 2010

More information on upcoming events!

Hello! Update about the children's craft activity tomorrow and the event on Sat - more information is below:

You are invited to participate in the 'Stirchley Thought Exchange' on Saturday 5th June outside Coop in Stirchley (Pershore Road). There will be a range of activities that will run between 11am - 4pm:

People, Plants and Places:
Add you name and favourite plant (and why) to a Stirchley seedling and pop it on the Birmingham map - so we can trace people's favourites...

Say it with Flowers:
You will be invited to contribute to the garden of thoughts...

Plant thought exchange:
Plants rescued from Stirchley's derelict sites will be given back to the community - come and take a plant and its story - information on where it has come from and where it would like to live, but be quick, there are around 40 plants looking for new homes, and they're sure to be popular!

Plant Poetry board:
Feel inspired by the plants and their stories? Contribute to the plant poetry board...

Plant quiz:
Take a quiz sheet and try your hand at identifying parts of Stirchley by its plant life... there might be a prize in it! So be sure to enter...

Please circulate to anyone you think will be interested, and any friends and family you may have living in Stirchley.

There will also be a children's craft workshop held at Stirchley Library on Thursday 3rd June from 2pm until 3pm under the 'Say it with Flowers' theme.

I hope to see you on either tomorrow (Thursday 3rd) or Saturday 5th June

Over and out!

Wednesday, 26 May 2010

Event - Saturday 5th June in Stirchley 11am - 4pm

WOWEEE I have remembered how to use photoshop again! It took about 4hours to remember and some books from the library, but it feels good!

SO here is what I have created! I hope this comes out ok, I have been having problems saving it so it doesn't look pixellated on pcs - so let me know if it looks strange.

I am still waiting to here from coop about a where the stall can be located, but I thought I really need to start getting these flyers out otherwise no one will know about it!

I am hoping to adapt this flyer a bit to advertise a craft workshop in Stirchley library hopefully taking place next Thursday - will let you know as soon as I sort that out. A bit short notice I hear you cry! Well I take your point on board.

I would like to thank everyone who has helped out in this project so far - this flyer does not reflect all the support I have had, as there wasn't space, but don't think it has gone without thanks.

Will let you know about venue changes!

Sunday, 23 May 2010

The Strawberry plants look how I felt last Wednesday

Hi there. There are some unhappy strawberry plants amongst the mix. I think they had hardly any roots so are struggling in these pots - but the Granny's bonnets are doing really well! Wouldn't you agree?

Today I am going to concentrate on finishing a flyer to promote the Thought Exchange event, which is coming up so soon. The chap from the coop came back to me with lots of support about the project, and notifying me that June 5th (the date I am planning to hold the event) is World Environment Day. Which has potential links, so I'm going to have a look into this. Just waiting for a final sign off to hold the event at the Stirchley store from the manager.... hopefully he'll email me this week. (NB the link to coop midlands site here seems a little bit dated...) Part of the preparation for the event will involve asking each plant to give me a bit of detail about their life and themselves, and trying my hand at some not very botanically accurate illustrations of them in flower. I am also working on the questions that will form the framework of the thought exchange.

On Friday I spoke to a couple of very helpful staff at Stirchley library about linking in with some half term activities - possibly doing a family craft workshop, and maybe having a slot at their next coffee morning. So I've got to have a think about that. Lots to think about. They also said they were happy to exhibit documentation of the event in the library on their notice board. All very positive stuff. But I just need to decide on the final direction and give them some more specific ideas about what I can do. So today I will also be sketching out some ideas about how this could work.

Lots to do, so will speak later.

Saturday, 15 May 2010

More plants! Hurrah!

I haven't as yet counted the number of plants we just rescued from a garden in Hazellwell Lane. But considering the majority of gardens were very overgrown with brambles, bindweed and buddleia, we managed to find a lovely patch of bluebells, violets and creeping jenny. And others. Fantastic. So they are all potted up - need to buy more compost tomorrow **note to self**. And I need to label them all too. The compost is quite fine and airy so they will need a lot of watering. And there was so much bindweed entangled with things, we had to carefully check roots of everything planted to make sure no unwanted garden terrors are given away along with garden lovelies!

Some of the strawberry plants from the Kwiksave car park (site opposite the British Oak pub on Pershore Road/ Hazelwell Street) have now also been added to the collection. Eight healthy looking specimens. And we left about two or three plants in situ - as it is nice to see strawberries growing in the wild.

The chap still living in Hazelwell Lane was most helpful in allowing us into his garden, and telling me about where I can gather leads on the others who used to live down that road a good 10 years ago. One suggestion was to look at records in the library archives - to look at the history of the road; and there were a few contacts at the community centre that might be fruitful. It would be interesting to build a picture of this community before Tescos bought them out. Most of this row of houses have been empty for 9 years. Last Sunday one of the houses was set on fire. How much longer can it take before a decision will be made! Or any action taken?

The town centre manager for Stirchley responded to me yesterday about options for holding the stall for the exchange event on 5th June. He potentially offered the space outside the constituency office/ school. Which would be excellent - right in the heart of the area. I sent a contact at coop some information yesterday too so I'm waiting to hear from him also about having the stall outside the front of the coop by the bus stops.

Well I think it is over and out for me now.... maybe catch up tomorrow!

Wednesday, 12 May 2010


Hello there, I have some positive news to report. I have been granted access to more gardens on Hazelwell Lane - to see whether any additional plants can be salvaged. So this weekend, I will be scrambling through brambles to see what can be found. Fingers crossed.

Also, I have been given permission by the property managing agent to take any plants of interest from the site that was previously (many blue moons ago) Kwiksave. There is a rather uplifting strawberry plant there living in the crack between the tarmac and a wall. So if you see any dodgy activity happening on this patch then please come along and help! I have permission! Well, I have permission to remove plants. I have not been granted permission to actually have the plant stall - the Stirchley Thought Exchange event itself - on this land. Not sure why. So I am still looking for venues....

...I am hoping this event, where the found plants are given back to residents, will take place on Saturday 5th June - or May bank holiday Monday - I have left a message with the Coop Superstore to see whether it might be something they would be happy to support on their land, perhaps at the front of the store. Not sure what anyone thinks about this.... hmmm.

Stirchley Neighbourhood Forum
On Monday just gone, I attended the Stirchley Neighbourhood Forum meeting, and listened to a presentation by West Midlands Police about Taser guns. Which was interesting. And included a demonstration. You are thinking: "how is this relevant to plants on derelict sites?" Well, I followed this presentation with a small announcement about this project, the Stirchley Thought Exchange. "Ah yes, I see" you say. The forum members seemed to be interested and supportive. In fact they had a couple of useful ideas of where the saved plants could go - there is a patch/ community garden by Bournville train station on Mary Vale Road - BT have taken it over I believe, however it is in need of attention generally, and a few extra plants wouldn't go amiss. Another suggestion was to plant them in Hazelwell or Cotteridge Park. Which is a great idea. Although I have a lot of mint. I'm not sure whether that is a park plant? I said I would send the link to this blog to Mick at the forum to include on the website too. Note to self....

Buddleia Seeds
I was very pleased on Monday as several packets of flower seeds that I had ordered from the internet (I did feel bad not using local businesses tut tut) had arrived. Including my buddleia butterfly mix - the picture above is of me looking (subtly) excited, just incase you were wondering. Its a pretty bad picture, I'm not entirely sure why I'm posting it, only it took me quite a long time to work out how to flip pictures taken by the webcam so I felt slightly compelled to use it! On the front of the packet is a photo of nice pink and white varieties; I am hoping they are less invasive than the common purple kind (sorry Buddy). Although I am excited by them, I am not exactly sure what to do with them. Any suggestions please comment! I was thinking of starting them off then having them as small gifts for people if there are not enough rescued plants. Hmm. Thought cap goes on.... I might do an unplanned consultation down at TASCOs club on Saturday night over a whiskey mac, see what the punters think. They might have some interesting contributions on how to take this forward considering they are in the middle of the derelict land. Maybe the cafe too.... saturday morning.... so many ideas!

Ok, I'm rambling a little now, so I'm going to head off!!

Tuesday, 4 May 2010


Oh my goodness the clouds were so dark today I really thought it was going to rain. But it hasn't yet - and I'm sure Buddy and all the other guys need a sprinkle. Alas I'll have to remember in the morning. Or they'll be telling everyone I've been mistreating them! Goodness me....

I spent last night making little labels for them all out of margarine tubs (I would've taken a picture but I need to get a camera); I can remember the names of the easy ones like foxglove, primrose - but its the osteospermum and monkshood I would've forgotten. So at the moment 22 potted plants from a garden of the empty properties on Hazelwell Lane are just getting the know each other really - some had seen each other from afar but never really had the opportunity to talk. I guess they find it interesting to see what other gardens are like. And I feel like maybe they are a little bit excited about what is going to happen to them - because every time I go out into the garden they go all quiet... like they don't want me listening in on their visions for the future...

Monday, 3 May 2010

Buddy the Buddleia

Hi there! I am a buddleia or 'butterfly bush'. You've probably seen lots of bushes like me around Stirchley - maybe you have one in your garden, or perhaps in a neighbouring garden or piece of land.

I have come from the garden of one of the boarded up houses in Hazelwell Lane. I could have been planted as a garden plant, but people associate me with derelict sites waiting for development or buildings that have been left to fend for themselves... I am not fussy where I park my roots, as you can see from the photos, this is one of my relatives who has settled in on an old pile of bricks and rubble further along Hazelwell Lane, and another who is enjoying the view from Stirchley swimming bath roof.

I have to admit, I am very used to being free and out in the open, so I am not sure how long I will last in this pot.... Roxie has been taking good care of me, making sure I am watered, but to be honest my roots are feeling claustrophobic. I can't wait to be planted!
My buddliea cousins come in lots of varieties of different leaf and stem formations, flower shapes and colours, and we are great for wildlife, hence my nickname the butterfly bush. I am Buddleia davidii - with a mauve flower, and am sometimes considered a weed (I guess because I'm really not fussy where I set up home), but I have overheard people complaining about how invasive I can be. But I don't mind being pruned!

Saturday, 1 May 2010


Hello! Welcome to Stirchley Thought Exchange's blog space! This is an environmental art project that aims to gather the stories of residents and plants affected by physical changes in their environment.

Garden plants saved from Stirchley's derelict sites will be given back to the community through 'thought exchange' events - where residents and visitors to the area can take a plant and its story, and add their own story of their experience of the ever changing Stirchley, for others to take away. The ultimate idea is that members of the community can re-house a plant that otherwise may have been bulldozed or sprayed with weedkiller along with the rest of the overgrown gardens and car parks of dilapidated buildings around the area. They also can take away a thought from someone else; a response to these changes, or a thought for the future.

I have lots of plans of how this project can develop and flow, but am interested in hearing ideas - for example, I hope to contact the local school and think about taking a session with a story telling approach - looking at the lives and emotions of these plants, who have been uprooted from their surroundings, and how they might look forward to growing in someone else's garden; and how this reflects the thoughts of the buildings and people around us - our sense of community, and sense of place. If there is anyone who uses story telling as an art form who is interested in helping to develop this, then please let me know! I am also interested in working with local shops too, so there is much work to do and many contacts to make.

I hope to update this blog with progress on this project, and stories from the rescued plants... notes from my walks around the area as I see new patches containing plants of interest. As the project progresses I too will learn so much more about horticulture and understanding plants, and get to know my local area in a very different light.