7 April 2020

How a "Gardener in Residence" can help regenerate cities with nature

ICLEI Europe is committed to working on supporting cities to harness the vast potential of urban nature. One projects focusing on "regenerating cities with nature" is CLEVER Cities.

CLEVER Cities is all about harnessing the potential of local communities to bring nature back into urban spaces and our everyday lives. But how are the front-runner cities making this happen on the ground?

In London, the Greater London Authority, Peabody and Groundwork London, have hired a "Gardener in Residence," Kat Wojnar, to help create and maintain high-quality green spaces for locals of the Thamesmead area of London to enjoy.

In a recent interview with CLEVER Cities, Kat reflected on her role and what it means to be a Gardener in Residence.

Kat gardens – in the traditional sense of the word – as well as doing much more. She works with the area's residents to create opportunities for them to get involved in horticulture, spanning gardening, growing and sharing food, composting, protecting wild habitats and supporting wildlife. Locals are engaged through creative workshops, celebrations, and educational activities within the community.

Kat hosts gardening drop-in sessions and runs a newsletter for residents to gain knowledge and get involved. She is leading an effort to put together gardening kits for residents with tools, seeds and soil, which will be donated to locals to help them start gardening. In addition, forming close bonds with community members has helped to bring more locals into the fold.

Residents have mostly responded very positively to these new efforts. More and more locals are getting involved, and contributing their own ideas for "how to green up their spaces, grow food and get others involved."

The coronavirus pandemic is presenting a challenge at the moment, as it is leading to cancelled events, such as the Nature Forums and drop-in gardening sessions. Kat and her team are using this as an opportunity to think creatively about how they can still engage with people at home, and to plan ahead.

Kat explains, "I see a future where Thamesmead is known as the ‘Garden of London’ – a kind of horticultural hub for all Londoners – where people can come to improve their gardening skills, participate in nature-based events and workshops, and enjoy local produce, art and cuisine." She goes on to add, "It is not just about seeing green spaces come into bloom, but also about building an environment that encourages a creative approach to local produce as well as being a haven for wildlife harmoniously coexisting with the community."

To read the full interview, click here.