*** Join the Barbican Horticultural Society ***

Although the Barbican architects always envisaged that the complex they had created would be full of plants and flowers – “the Hanging Gardens of the Barbican” – it was a good 15 years before residents founded the Barbican Horticultural Society (BHS). 

We’ve just had our 34th AGM and I’m glad to say that, despite the challenges lockdown presented, we’re still going strong. The aims of the BHS, then as now, were to encourage residents to cultivate their balconies, terraces and patios, and to provide information and practical help to Barbican gardeners of all levels of experience.  

Nowadays the Society has almost 100 members, some of them seasoned gardeners and winners of our annual competition, but others are gardening novices. Even residents who have downsized from properties with substantial gardens can find their green fingers challenged by the Barbican with its multiple microclimates depending on aspect, height, orientation and wind. 

Our website (www.barbicanhortsoc.co.uk) provides free information on tower block gardening, pests and diseases, herb growing and local sources of plants and gardening supplies. The site is being upgraded to provide a calendar not only of forthcoming BHS events, but also local and Greater London events such as Open Gardens and exhibitions. We also have evenings for new members, where they can meet up with long-standing members for advice and plant cuttings over a glass of wine.  

Our Summer Competition, this year run in early June, drew entries for window boxes to roof terraces, via balconies, podium planters and house plants. This year for the first time vegetable growers were featured and, as always there were special awards for new entrants. These days the competition judges are not only looking for attractive plantings of healthy specimens but are keen to spot pollinators (alas our beloved geraniums – alias pelargoniums – which grow so well here are not bee friendly) and environmentally friendly, sustainable displays.  

Interesting to note that the RHS has finally caught up with us: this year, for the first time, the Chelsea Flower Show had an awards category for ‘Best Balcony & Container Garden’ and a ‘Gold Award’ winner, so let’s hope we’ll have some innovative suggestions coming from there in future. 

Our talks, by gardening authors, experts, and historians are well attended, even when they have had to be held on Zoom rather than face to face. Quizzes have also been online and are likely to stay that way. 

We hold regular Plant Swaps of indoor and outdoor specimens, as cuttings, seeds and, sometimes, rescued bedding plants from Barbican estate gardeners when they’re clearing the beds. 

We are affiliated to the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) and are entitled to a free group visit and tour of one of their properties. Last year we visited RHS Wisley and had a great tour of highlights from a well-informed volunteer. This September we’ll be visiting RHS Hyde Hall, near Colchester. We’ve also had visits to local gardens, for example King Henry’s Walk Gardens in Islington and a recent trip to the Museum of Garden History. A guided visit to Kew Gardens is planned for July. 

BHS may be entering middle age but welcomes new members, with their fresh perspectives and enthusiasms. Though we have a few junior members we’d like to involve children to get them interested in growing things from an early age, so if you’re a parent who’d like to help this initiative, please contact us via our Secretary, Hilary Sunman, at barbhortsoc@gmail.com

It’s not expensive to join: £7.50 for annual membership for an individual, £10 for a couple. Details of how to join are on the website www.barbicanhortsoc.co.uk. We look forward to meeting you at our next event, where you’ll meet friendly, like-minded Barbican gardeners.