For more than 10 years we have been organising plant exchanges in the region of the "Pyrénées orientales". If I say "we", I refer to my allotment garden friends who above all like to collect ornamental plants and who wanted to share their passion or simply their interest for the garden or this or that plant family. And this is why we started our first exchanges.
These exchanges are mostly organised in spring, even if this is not the best period to replant Mediterranean plants. However, the exchanges provoke an increasing interest and we have now added a fourth meeting to our yearly calendar. So the first Sunday in May we have our annual meeting in Albère, a small commune on the Spanish border and our South Catalan garden friends join in too.
The principle is very easy and was rapidly understood by all. As we know that there will be plant exchanges, we prepare our shoots in autumn or at any other occasion when we work in our garden. Mostly the cuttings of plants give us the greatest part for the exchanges, without forgetting the seedlings and the off-shoots which we prefer. We also exchange bulbs and, but less commonly seeds because they are exchanged all year long, now even by certain libraries. It is possible to exchange everything and we exchange above all cultivation advice, how to associate plants, experiences, addresses...
The botanical encyclopaedia as well as reference books are at our disposal to find complicated names and plant families.
The kitchen garden is also represented, above all by ancient varieties of tomatoes, salads, cabbage, strawberries and there are as well cacti, irises, fig trees, aromatic plants...
This activity will also be continued in 2017. An important event will take place in Paulilles on March 26th 2017 during the Week against pesticides.
Co-ambassador of the French allotment garden federation (Pyrénée orientales)
In September 2016, AVVN launched a new project entitled the National Garden Experiment (Nationale Proeftuin). The project involves a non-commercial, generally accessible seed exchange, on the website www.denationaleproeftuin.nl , via which garden enthusiasts can offer and obtain plant seeds, free of charge. Via the National Garden Experiment, we aim to help promote biodiversity in gardens.
Biodiversity ensures a healthy natural system and allotment gardeners are the ideal partners to strengthen biodiversity by exchanging seeds. Promoting biodiversity is essential in the face of the decline in genetic plant variety. Due to large-scale agriculture and the food processing industry, more than 90% of calorie intake today is provided by just 30 crops. Variation between crop varieties is also declining. Nonetheless, it is essential that traditional diversity be maintained. We should give nature more space to develop, by preserving and extending our green heritage. Via the National Garden Experiment, we can inspire garden enthusiasts to experiment. It doesn't take much; even a flower tray is enough.
For this digital marketplace, we developed a new website which is fully open to the public; in addition to allotment gardeners, anyone with a front garden, back garden or balcony can join in.
There are a number of rules of play. Seeds must not be sold via the website; only exchanged or given away. Seeds must all originate from the participant's own crop or own garden. To prevent the undesirable spread of diseases, only healthy material must be offered.
Anyone offering seeds or plant material simply places their own advertisement on the website. We encourage them to also give tips on the plant's needs such as location and soil, and the plant's characteristics such as colour, height and flowering season. Information about the added natural value of the plant, for example whether it attracts butterflies or bees, is also useful.
Anyone visiting the site and interested in a particular seed simply sends an envelope containing a stamped and addressed reply envelope to the provider, stating the seeds they wish to receive. By bringing supply and demand together in this way, we hope to boost the vitality of nature in the Netherlands and make the world an even prettier place.
To be followed
Throughout the World every day 120 animal- and plant species are lost forever. This is a very great loss for humanity. Nearly always people are at the cause of this loss. Therefore, it is our duty to stop it. The allotment gardeners have already started to work to achieve this aim a long time ago. Simply by the choice of the plants and the lay-out of the ground taken on lease, we make a precious contribution to the safeguarding of the diversity of nature and this even if our gardens are small.
Plants, which disappear from our gardens, our parks or public green spaces, are normally lost forever, because on a professional level i.e. in horticulture, in nurseries and in agriculture only a relatively small range of species are cultivated. Meanwhile there exist many initiatives by which the allotment gardeners want to show how to contribute to the protection of biodiversity. Among them there are for example: courses, visits of allotment gardens with an exchange of experiences or seed exchange markets.
In the regional federation Aue/Stollberg (National federation of Saxony) the ladies dealing with gardening advice have been carrying out since more than 2 years a project concerning a seed exchange market. The idea is simple and easy. Every interested person can bring a certain number of seeds packed in a small bag with a label. In exchange they get seeds of other species free of costs, which they possibly had been trying to find without success up to now or they might find something completely new, which up to now was unknown to them.
The exchange market is well organised and laid out clearly. On walls with plastic films you find the bags in small pockets marked with colours and sorted according to the different kinds. Highlight of this exchange market are seeds that are put at the disposal by botanic gardens, with which the initiator of this exchange market has regular contacts. With such ideas one can contribute a little bit to safeguarding our biodiversity.
Vice-president of the allotment federation of Saxony
And there are more similar activities in other federations.
Series to be continued.
"The blooming house": ("La maison éclose") Poetry in this garden…
At the border of the large square of Milan, the healthy oxygen and tranquillity lung in the South of Lausanne, you find the green hill of Montriond. From this spot the walker can enjoy a splendid view over the capital of the Swiss canton Vand, the Lake of Geneva and the Alps of the Savoy.
It is not unusual to meet here amateurs of rare, indigenous and exotic plants who stroll through the cantonal botanical garden next to our nice allotment site of Montriond. The latter is not second as far as "order and beauty, luxury, calm and lust" are concerned as states the great poet Baudelaire.
The blooming house
On the sign of the" blooming house" you can see that an exceptional event took place at the end of this summer in the gorgeous plant alleys.
Far away from the reception halls and the closed meeting rooms where so often literature is locked in, in front of a captivated public, the words of a small group of authors blossomed freely between plants, flowers, a waterfall and ponds for the great pleasures of the audience.
Sitting in the shadow of stalls, decorated by extraordinary vintage elements, 16 writers, 10 female and 6 male writers invited the visitors to listen to their texts in complete privacy in an out of the ordinary, rare and precious face to face.
So on Saturday August 27th literature, murmured and shared secrets in confidence…..
The cherry on the cake was a gastronomic concept accompanying the readings and so allowed all the senses to be awake: there was something to hear, to see, to smell, to touch, to taste…….it was to lose ones head!
Writers in the garden
This playful and interactive experience where the art of writing became an ally of the art of the gardens allowed a conquered public to discover the authors: Pascal Bernheim, Anne Brécart, Julien Bucci, Julien Burri, Olivier Chapuis, Sophie Colliex, Elisabeth Daucourt, Sabine Dormond, Valérie Gilliard, Pierre de Grandi, Douna Loup, Rachel Maeder, Cornélia de Preux, Abigail Seran, Jean Prod'hom and Rachel Zufferey.
All say that they were delighted. Who can say how many friendly contacts were created in these privileged moments, robbed from the time that is passing too quickly and that can never be caught up?
The blooming house? A lesson not only of literature but also of the art of living and of openness for the creation on our allotments……
Simone Collet, Switzerland
And you can already find such examples………….
Similar initiatives can for example be found:
1) in France
• In Orleans
The allotment site "Abbé Lemire" opened its doors on September 19th, 2015 at the occasion of the Heritage Day. The public could admire sculptures by Nicolas Crozier, ceramics by Michael Buckley, listen to poems by Régis Pelletier and enjoy different activities and tastings(honey, vegetables), get gardening advice, visit the beehive and the pedagogical pool and could as well discover the history of the allotments in Orleans. At the end of the ceremony 375 kg offered by the allotment gardeners could be given to the food bank of the Loiret in partnership with GrDF.
Jean-Claude Férail, president of the AOJOF
(Jardin Familial de France 493/2016)
• In Gradignan
During the environment week, readings are organised in the gardens for school children.
So do also open your site and organise a special event, a reading activity, an art presentation, a food tasting experience…..There are no limitations to your imagination.
2) in Great-Britain:
From July 23rd until August 7th 2016 an art exhibition "Closer to the Veg" was organised at the Fitzroy Park Allotments in London.
Dear allotment gardeners
This year we have celebrated the 90th anniversary of the International Office. 90 years of work, progress, success, but also sometimes regrets, deceptions or failures.
90 years after its foundation, do we still need the International Office? What can the Office offer to the individual allotment gardeners in a society where on all levels egoism, individualism, national specificities and absence of solidarity seem to be the keywords?
If we analyse our movement we have to acknowledge that today, like yesterday, the gardeners still have the same problems. The solutions in their detail cannot be the same everywhere because the habits and legislations are different. If in certain countries one finds allotments with sheds only used to protect the gardener against bad weather, one finds, in other countries, sheds that enable the gardeners to stay over the day, overnight and sometimes even to live here. All these types of gardens coexist and complete each other. There is not today, as there was not in the past, one model garden.
However, on the whole the solutions adopted have to reach the same result, i.e. a general development of the allotment garden, its stability and all the means necessary for its insertion in the modern town, an insertion highly justified in a civilization, where the social problems, the protection of nature and the fight against pollutions have become major problems.
Taken individually the federations are still not strong enough to reach their aim, which is the sustainable development of the allotment movement in an environment that is becoming more and more complex. Alone they are not sufficiently equipped to face the new challenges in an optimal way.
Therefore, without hesitation, one has to say that we still need the Office.
The roots are invisible but they make a tree grow. Our roots are the love of the 2 million allotment garden families for gardening, our social engagement, our efforts for the protection of nature and environment and for a sustainable development, the fellowship and our efforts for the well-being of all. The ethic is more important than the form.
These roots have allowed the tree representing our movement grow. They are still sufficiently strong to make new branches grow and to make the movement develop for the well-being of all the allotment gardeners and for society as a whole.
The national federations are alone legitimated in order to represent the national allotment gardeners. However, they are as well a transmission organ of the Office's work towards the national gardeners. The Offices work is not an aim for itself, but this work directly serves the national gardeners.
• The exchange of experiences within the International Office remains essential in order to enable the federations to know everything that is happening around them and so to optimize their own actions and to be able to defend the interests of the individual allotment garden members in an optimal way.
• The taking of common positions to influence decision makers will have positive consequences for each individual gardener.
• Texts, actions and directives to be adopted will help the gardeners to improve to develop activities and projects in order to better become integrated in society and towns.
• The Office by the services offered has to help its members to face the new challenges for example by the technical gardening advice, which has to be generalized and then regularly updated.
Allotment gardens are not yet protected everywhere. Together we have to make a survey of all the means and methods used in addition to specific legislations in order to protect them, as for example their integration in the urban green infrastructures, their inclusion in cultural roundtrips, them being taken into consideration as ecological compensation grounds as well as their integration in social projects.
We have to welcome new interested people and consider all forms of gardening. Urban gardening often focuses on another category of people with different objectives than traditional allotment gardeners. Together we have to analyze this phenomenon and take it into consideration. These two phenomena can and have to complete each other harmoniously. We have to see what the authorities' and the population's concerns are and propose and solutions that are in accordance with people's requests our projects.
The Office together with the federations has to take part in scientific missions, campaigns and activities in order to focus the attention of the authorities and international organizations on our movement, on the federations and the allotment gardeners' activities in order, on one hand to better anchor them in society and, on the other hand in order to better orientate the activities to be developed.
We have to be extraordinary. We have to be and remain a modern, attractive and combating force. We have not only to administer what we have achieved, but we have to innovate and prepare the future. We have to become the most sustainable form of urban gardening.
In this way I wish you a good health and much success for 2017.
Secretary general of the International Office du Coin de Terre et des Jardins Familiaux