Demand grows for inner-city gardening plots as Covid-19 pandemic ravages U.K.

It may be a small plot in Osterley, west London, but it has provided Karen Peck’s kitchen with row upon row of cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, fava beans and garlic.

But Peck, 60, gets far more out of her allotment than just fresh food.

“It’s so tranquil. I have a favorite robin who comes to visit, then the blackbird turns up, and there are wrens in the corner,” Peck said in a telephone interview late last year. “You appreciate the birdsong and the tiny little brown mice, hedgehogs, urban foxes.”

Karen Peck on her allotment in west London.

The connection with nature had been especially nice during the coronavirus pandemic, she said.

Allotments — small pockets of urban land sectioned off for city residents to grow fruit, vegetables, plants and flowers — were once common in British cities, particularly at the height of World War II.

As German U-boats laid waste to supply ships crossing the Atlantic Ocean, Britons were urged to grow their own food, and the “Dig for Victory” campaign was embraced with vigor.

By 1945, well over a 1 million allotments were supplementing peoples’ meager wartime rations.

That changed in the decades that followed, when the urgent need

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As their family (and their landscape) grows, the owners of Zook & Oleson Gardening adapt their spaces for plants and people

THE TREES ARE big, the house is small (but very cool) and the gardens are always growing.

Ben Oleson and Jen Zook are owners of Zook & Oleson Gardening (zookandolesongardening.com) and parents to Indie (15) and Jesse (12). Two dogs, Joaquin and Fiona, and an “ancient” cat named Vincent, complete the household.

An avid plantsman, Oleson’s approach to garden design is grounded in plants. “I’m a gardener. If you want a garden, I’m your guy,” he says. “I only design what I can install — and I’m not that handy.”

I politely disagree as we walk among several Ben-built projects on the family’s large corner lot in West Seattle. The landscape is abundantly planted but prioritizes family life. Built features, like decking, an interesting dog-friendly fence (it has windows at canine height) and outbuilding storage solutions for the active family’s outdoor gear, are integrated with ornamental shrubs and perennials, edible gardens and berries.

Bisecting exuberantly planted garden beds, an informal boardwalk leads to a citrus yellow front door. The canopy of a truly impressive silver maple (Acer saccharinum) envelops the front garden and bustles with life. “The tree is a community of animals, the only ecosystem

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Annual Whidbey Gardening Workshop grows online this year

An island-wide gardening event that had to be cancelled last year because of the pandemic is coming back with a virtual flair this year.

Organizers and instructors were gearing up for the 32nd Whidbey Gardening Workshop back in March 2020 when the pandemic started to gain momentum, shuttering nonessential businesses and cancelling events.

Nearly a year later, instructors who were supposed to teach classes at the workshop will be able to do so via online video conferencing, the new format that the Whidbey Gardening Workshop is taking on March 6.

Barbara Schmitt, who coordinates marketing for the event, said this year’s workshop will have 27 online classes to choose from. Instructors will be teaching live with the use of Zoom.

In years past, the workshop has been held at Oak Harbor High School, with 450 to 500 participants in attendance. Field trips and a marketplace were also hallmarks of the event, although those parts will be cancelled this year.

This year, participants will be able to watch recordings of all 27 classes after the event is over. From now until Jan. 20, an “early bird” discount is available for tickets priced at $45. The ticket price is $55 after that

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