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(Übersetzung folgt) The district of Batán borders on the Casa del Campo park, the neighborhood is a mixture of appartment blocks for the not-so-rich, sports grounds, and still fairly big patches of wasteland. A winding road takes us – about 500 meters further – to the urban garden of Batán, one of the first in Madrid.

Irene, who founded the garden with her community

Things to do

Irene Prins was one among those first founders, then in 2012, in fact, she initiated the project. Our talk takes us from the need to create a place for oneself to the ramifications of the 15th of May Movement in 2011. Irene stuck notes to the walls and trees in the neighbourhood to find people willing to set up a garden space in the area. Over 30 came. “Before this revolutionary movement happened”, she said, “maybe the interest wouldn’t have been so great. But this idea of selfempowerment and taking on responsibilty for the places and communites we live in, was just too important”.

Batán No.1: The original location of the garden was some 50 meters distant. It is smaller and is now cultivated into a forest garden.

Soon afterwards, the Huerto de Batán began to connect to other urban gardens in the city, “there were maybe 4 or 5 of them” – and this was the beginnung of the “Red le los huertos communales en Madrid”. La Red, the network, now counts around 50 urban gardens in the municipality of Madrid. The work is done by volunteers, but the city occasionally supports the gardeners in gaining acess to some rescources like extra soil, organic fertilizers, and water. Yet in their very beginnings, Batán gardens were just a squat and the water was “siphoned off” a communal pipe.

The pond

As we sit in the sun with the distant noise of the A 18 motorway in our back, the conversation shifts from politics and communal issues to the permacultural design of the garden which is clearly organized in terrasses, and planted with a thoughtful mix of (still young) trees, supporting shrubs, herbs, occasional flowers and of course, a diversity of vegetables. There are also a pond and a beehive… too silent this latter one for this time of the year: “We’ll have to wait. Maybe there is still hope, there was so much honey there the last year and we left it all to the bees. But it is strange, not to see a single bee…”

Irene shows me around the plots that in some places spout bushy clews of “habas” (broad beans), there is  timid rhubarb, rosemary and salads. There is also grass, stone, wood, mulch made from twigs, and an irrigation system (saw no Spanish garden without one so far). The garden’s special point is to turn annual vegetables into perennial ones, something that can work quite well with cabbages for example. I get also introduced to a garden plant entirely new to me, the Siberian Pea. Hardy, sturdy and with a stem and branches, a pea bearing shrub… !!!

One last question (podcast of this will be available at some later point) touches our personal relationship to the plant life. Yes, there is , if not actual talk but ‘thinking’ to the plant and a sincere feeling of respect and gratitude. Irene holds that connecting to the earth also connects us better to our lives and fellow human beings, because “it is all about caring”, she says.
There is nothing to add… except some images and the following links.

 

 

 

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(Übersetzung folgt) A place for study, information but also a treasure trove of ancient books on botany, this is the library of the Real Jardìn Botanico. Felix Alonso is the head of the library department – we already met when I stumbled into the offices on my very first visit to the garden – and we both enjoy our second encounter. As requested I had prepared some questions and the interview runs smoothly (in the process of editing).

 

Felix Alonso, head libarian of the RJM explains about his work

 

Sample Title :)

The beginnings of the book collections stored here lie in the 18th century, but since then the work of librarians has changed considerately – more so with the impact of the digital age. Apart from keeping pace with the mounting bulk of new publications (and sorting and cataloguing them), the library also engages in several activities with the public. One of them being the forthcoming exhibition about „Tulipan Ilustrado“, the Tulip in Illustration, on the 20th of March (until 20th of May).

Speaking of illustrations Felix proceeds to show me one of the more special books. The drawings are excellent (naturally!) and separated by tissue paper from each other. Pages are turned and the rustle of the tissue compels me to record the sound. Señor Alonso smiles. Maybe this seems strange to him, that something so utterly functional has qualities beyond that: audible ones. Then again, this might have been to moment for him to decide to let me walk me further into the aisles.

Of course this is the goddess Flora

 

Fantastic books if you love the green world!

 
 

Needless to say that I am overwhelmed by the abundance of botanical books in the shelves, some of them surely rare: Expedtion reports from the jungles of Bolivia, mushrooms in the Himalya, pittosporums in Galicia, Pilze in Mitteleuropa, books in Chinese, German, English, French, and and and. Yet, if my curiosity hadn’t driven me down the corridor on that first day I wouldn’t have known about the cabinet at the very end of the room, and so I ask.

„Yes, says Felix, I can show you at least one of the books, I only need to get the key.

The Fuchs Book

These treasures are stored in grey plastic boxes, and carefully wrapped in transparent foil. The book I am allowed to look at is one of the very few (maybe 50 worldwide) copies of Leonhard Fuchs, one of the „fathers“ of botanics, printed around 1542.
The index indicates the plant names in latin but also with their common German names. The drawings were first printed in their outlines and afterwards coloured by hand. I am stunned and feel an overwhelming gratitude for the existence of these botanists, maybe of botanists in general. And, of course, for the people that helped to manufacture books like this, woodcutters, painters, printers. Fuchs himself acknowledges their input by the inclusion of their portraits. Else? Look for yourself! And thank you, Señor Alonso!

 

After the talks a quick picture

 

As I leave the offices of the library, the Botanic garden sparkles in sunlight. Despite the still-too-low temperatures the plant make every effort to spring into leaf and flower… while the gardeners are working hard to prepare more beds.

Almond tree bonsai at the entrance of the library

 

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Eva Kurly and Oscar Dominguez at the Hospital de Plantas

(Übersetzung folgt) It’s less than a 20 minutes drive into the western part of Madrid and we reach the community of Pozuelo, famous for its singular „Hospital de Plantas“. As we get out of the car, the air feels different. Humid, a bit „foresty“ with a tinge of swamp. The rain falls softly on my face and onto Eva’s umbrella as we make our way to the entrance of Aula de Educación Ambiental (Húmera).

Eva Kurly had worked here for three years and arranged the interview.

Main office

The area is huge. We walk past greenhouses, wooden office buildings, plots and raised beds, and a geodetic dome used as a surround cinema. One of the educational directives of this place is the fostering of sustainable energies and waste upcycling. We pass a dew collector, solar panels (one in the shape of a giant sunflower, that alines its movement with the course of the sun) and a solar oven.

Smart solar energy plant

The fences hold plastic bottles cut out to hold plants of all sorts… due to the season most of them are „wild herbs“. Again much of the work invested into the huertos is done by volunteers and/or within the frame of education classes organized by the municipality.

The Hospital de Plantas is run by Oscar Domínguez, a biologist who teaches about plants and plant deceases at the university. There are regular opening hours once a week at Wednesday 10-2, when the citizens can come and bring their sick plants. A cupboard holds a microscope and various instruments to examine the patients and decide on the treatment.

Patients get a label

Once hospitalized, the length of stay  depends on the recovery process. For some plants, this can take up to a year, like in the case of a leafless, shriveled bonsai. Oscar put another case on the „Mesa de tratamiento“, a deplorable looking orchid in possession of none but one (broken) areal root. He points at some knobs in the centre of the plant. There is still hope, he says.

A classical patient

A snails sails across the table. It will be put out into the open

With such a long stay, I ask, how often does it happen that the owners won’t fetch their plants back?
Often, Oscar says. People just give up too easily. They are not used to care for plants in a sincere way.
Yet, if a person cannot take care of a plant, this shows that this person is also neglecting his or her own personality, or at least part of it.

Hospital watering can

Our conversation, facilitated by Eva’s translation, consequently drifts to the psychological impacts of plant ownership and care. Older people for example would often prefer plants that are easy to care for and grow rather slowly while young people love quick growth and plants that produce an abundance of colors both in leaves and flowers.

– The interview is presently in the process of editing and will be online in due time –

 

Oscar Dominguez, Hospital de Plantas

A second branch of Señor Dominguez’ research work is the construction of vertical gardens and the exploration of their micro climates. The one shown here is wainscoted with felt and allows a natural circulation of water, light and microorganisms within the unit.

We leave the „Classroom of Environmental Education“ of Pozuelo for a little walk in the nearby Casa De Campo. Once a hunting ground for the royals it is now Madrid’s biggest park covering more than 1,750 hectares. (I leave the touristic details aside here). There is anthother hospital in the vicinity: A hospital for night birds. There is not much hope to meet somebody there. Eva tells me she’s tried already several times. We are more than surprised that the door actually opens…
Yet, cheered too soon: No, no es possible! The staff is just at lunch and the birds are sleeping and must not be disturbed.

 
 

Stork’ nest Casa de Campo

Very wide awake instead are the storks that keep flying almost around our heads. Bundles of twigs hang from their beaks and indeed, Eva points out to a huge nest in the top of a nearby tree.
Two other features of the Casa des Campo: Swarms of green parrots that also nest here and pose (as in many other cities – also in Germany – ) a treat to the native birds, especially the common sparrow (which grows less and less common). Second, hoards of ghostly shaped trees, with hollow trunks and often reaching into the air with one last twisted branch. We put the recorder for the bird sounds into the fork of one branch and walk around… there is this „silky grey“ filter on my camera I try out.

Nest of the “evil” green Parrot

Ghost movie trees

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(Übersetzung folgt) La Casa de la miel has been in the hands of his family ever since the shop was founded in 1942, its owner, Pedro Pajuelo, says. We are standing in front of the counter, a black board next to the door shows the different kinds of honeys sold here, a shiny bin with a giant bee printed on it decorate the counter as well as an old-fashioned scale made from white enamel.


Two other men work here, one of them dusts the shelfs with the honey glasses with a feather mop, the other walks to and fro between the back rooms and the counter. An old lady enters and asks for a bag of bean seeds.

La Casa de la Miel does not only sell honeys from different regions of Spain, but also vegetable and flower seeds, teas, herbs, pimiento and other spices, cosmetics made from honey and pollen (the best quality is stored in a fridge in the corner). There are also little boxes with violet sweets in them in the color of violets! A speciality of Madrid, Pedro explains.

 

But of course, we talk about honey, its origins, how prices rise with the decrease in production because of the bee pests. If the bees die, we’ll have nothing to eat after no time, Pedro says, maybe five years, no more.

The conversation is in Spanish, I ask and Alberto assists with translation. 300 words in Spanish seem to equal 30 in English. I understand fragments and then, at times, I have no clue. Yet, this recording is for Datscha Radio Madrid, and almost a third of the world’s population speaks Spanish anyway :)

It is a rule with interviews that when the moment comes you think it is finished, the real info are preisgegeben. He hands us both a jar of honey com regalo, I present my flyers with the Adopt a Plant thing happening this Saturday and upon this information Pedro reveals himself as being a gardener too.
“Realmente me gustan las plantas. Come come…“
Alberto and I get invited to follow him to the store rooms in the back of the shops where huge barrels of honey sit on a tiled floor and a machine to knead the honey to a more fluid consistency dominates the room. We enter the patio of the house which belongs to the few still in their original architecture existing ones in Madrid: made of wood and stone but with a metal skeleton inside.

In the patio plants are lined up, lush green leaves, palm like. An „Indian plant“ was saved here from being thrown away. This is also the habitat of an ex-Christmas tree which seemingly thrives at his now home. And there is still another patio filled with Trandesceana, begonias and “bad mothers”. So there’s a secret gardener! Pedro explains that he likes to pick up the remnants or off shoots from neighbors plants falling into the yard. He gives them a new home and cares for them.

Then one of his shop attendants calls out about an important customer having just arrived, and we say goodbye and step out of the House of Honey into Atocha Street.

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7.3.2018 Today’s excursion to the periphery of Madrid brought on a flood of images and sounds. The aim was to visit Parque Capriche while obstinately ignoring the note „closed today“ on my phone.
Leaving the metro at Capriche (instead of the advised station of Cnajallmos) I directed my steps to the close-by grove of cypresses, gravel paths leading past unkempt lawns when I eyes caught sight of a typical enclosure with a vertraut sign reading: Huerto Allameda de Osuna.
A friedly looking couple stood conversing in front of a compact rusty shed, plots aligned the paths, buckets and wheelbarrows in a corner: Clearly this was another of Madrids happy urban gardens. (A detailed entry follows.)

After leaving the huerto I continued in vague direction of the Parque Capriche sign. Julia and Floren also had asserted that this garden wouldn’t open its doors before Saturday.

The area was already park-like: strewn with cypresses, trees with an abundance of cream-coloured berries (Medlar? Mulberry?), dog walkers, blue sky, sun. To my right a wall covered in graffitis. To my left beige brick apparent houses loomed next to more beige brick apparent houses. Council houses? Condos (Hardly)?

I followed the winding display of murals in the shadow of the wall. Used paper towels, plastic bottles, packagings, decorated the lawn: urban nature par excellence. On my phone, the blue spot indicating my position kept on hovering in the pathless green, creating the surreal feeling of somehow having been shrunk to half my size with distances doubled… Maybe this was because I felt the need to visit an aseo.

More images of the wonder wall on Facebook.

The closed gate of the Parque Capriche did not offer more to see than an impressive stretch of gravel leading up to an entrance building flanked by – no surprise – platanes. The murals had ended at a motorway crossing. There was an aqueduct in sight with trains running on it. On the other side of the street a spotless white wall opened up into a patio, and a friendly restaurant sign declared this to be the „Camping Osuna“.

Una tortilla, una cerveza, un cafe, muy bien!

Parque Juan Carlos: Thank you for not being neoclassical!!! Thank you for offering a place in space under a sky that sheds its blue-and-golden light onto industrial beauties, utilitarian architectures, the most aesthetically designed Staudamm I have ever seen, Mexican monuments, olive and juniper groves, futuristic playgrounds, grand alleys with – surprise! – not absolutely symmetrically arranged shrubs/trees. Thank you for emptiness!

(Detailed entry follows.)

Best of all: The Grey Maze! Undoubtedly the home of countless happy rabbits (I saw only two -huge!- ones, but it was afternoon not evening). Parrots cut through the air, screeching, but still in a civilized manner compared to their relatives in Australia. Tiny birds twitter on twigs. Youngsters practice Kajak polo, a sport I never heard of before.
A twig of the maze hedges – unknown plant to me – wandered into my bag for further identifucation.

 

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(Übersetzung folgt) A most depressing sight for all not plant-affine persons: A rose garden in early spring! Prickly bare sticks sprouting from grey-brown knotted knobs, one next to the other, the very image of bristly boredom. Quite different so for the rose lover: She or he wanders among the plots, reading the signs with avid interest and from time to time sends out deep mental sighs of expectation in view of „Red Mozart“ or „Conquistador“ or „Boule de Neige“. I see names I never read before in any books or on websites. No wonder, since La rosaleda de Ramón Ortiz“ features an important collection of varieties of Spanish roses, and the garden also serves as a test plot to see how these roses handle the Spanish climate.

The gaze travels from base to top, inspecting the expertise of how the stems have been cut, and at what height, it admires the raffia bows tenderly wound around the twines for support and the colours of the first leaves: dark copper, crimson red, emerald green, orange tinted, etc
The rose lover knows some of the names, but there still remain hundreds of floral secrets to dream of.  The garden hosts 600 varieties and 20 000 specimens and as an average gardener one cannot possibley know more than maybe three dozens of them… or?

The Rosaleda Ramón Ortiz – who then was the main gardener of Madrid – was created between 1955 and 1956. It is situated in the Parque Oueste, in the western part of the city. There is bird song and the rush of cars on the Paseo del Pintor Rosales, there is a fountain with a white lady spreading her arms under a spruce (or what I take for one). There is a group of young men dressed in blue and yellow overalls chatting at the corner of a long streched building next to the public toilets.

Let us walk up to one of them. His name is Oscar:

      1. Oscar Rose Gardener - raw audio

 

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(Übersetzung folgt) Another rainy day and a visit to the Sabatini Gardens in the western part of Madrid, close to the Palace del Rey. I went there intrigued by some pictures showing topiaries and I was not disappointed.
Beheaded cypresses flank the paths, darkly clothed guards of sharply trimmed hedges and the enclosed ponds that hold water spluttering ananas shaped stone sculptures.

I have a weak spot for topiaries, esspecially when they sprout extra twigs or have “faults” that turn them even more into seemingly animate beings. Another feature of the garden are the sculptures of quite a dozen of Spanish kings that obstinatly turn their backs to the tourists and visitors and look across the main pond at each other. Wrapped in their white, often cracked and partly patched cloaks, they royally withstand the rain, evidently glad for having escaped from a much more boring surrounding, an ordinary storage space.

As far as common information goes I’ll just share this wiki note with you:

The Jardines de Sabatini are part of the Royal Palace in Madrid, Spain, and were opened to the public by King Juan Carlos I in 1978. They honor the name of Francesco Sabatini (1722–1797), an Italian architect of the 18th century who designed, among other works at the palace, the royal stables of the palace, previously located at this site.

In 1933, clearing of the stable buildings was begun, and construction of the gardens begun, which were only completed in the late 1970s. The gardens have a formal Neoclassic style, consisting of well-sheared hedges, in symmetric geometrical patterns, adorned with a pool, statues and fountains, with trees also disposed in a symmetrical geometric shape. The statues are those of Spanish kings, not intended originally to even grace a garden, but originally crowding the adjacent palace. The tranquil array is a peaceful corner from which to view the palace.

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¡Hola Jardineros! Machen wir einen Spaziergang mit Alberto Peralta zu “Esta es una Plaza” in Madrid, einem Gemeinschaftsgarten in der Nähe des Medialab Prado. Die Wolken hängen heute tief, die Leute kuscheln sich unter ihre Regenschirme, doch hier in der Calle Doctor Fourquet, 24, ist die Luft erfüllt von Sägegeräuschen, Gesprächen und dem Platschen der Schuhe in sandigen Pfützen.

Der Gemeinschaftsgarten “Esta es una plaza” bestand fast 40 Jahre als páramo (städtische Brache). Vor 10 Jahren beschlossen die Einheimischen, sie in einen Garten zu verwandeln. Es gab, wie Alberto mir erzählte, sogar finanzielle Unterstützung seitens der Stadt für die Gärtner, aber diese entschieden so unabhängig wie möglich zu bleiben … also ist sogar noch etwas Geld übrig. [unglaublich!!!]

Der Garten ist etwa 1000 Quadratmeter groß und umgeben von bemalten Backsteinmauern. Darin stehen neben einem halben Dutzend junger Obstbäume und sorgfältig gepflegter Beete auch mehrere in Handarbeit konstruierte Bauten für die Arbeit, Mahlzeiten und Schutz vor Wind und Regen.  Es gibt auch einen Spielplatz und sogar ein Theater in hinteren Teil des Gartens. Die Kerngemeinde zählt etwa 30 aktive Mitglieder, aber nicht alle sind Gärtner. Einige kümmern sich um Beetumfassungen und Bauten, andere meistern die Logistik oder auch die Außenküche oder beides, wenn es darum geht, die Früchte des Gartens untereinander zu teilen: Im Sommer und Herbst werden regelmäßig Mittags- und Abendessen organisiert.

Auffallend sind die Wandgemälde und Graffitis, die ebenfalls aus der Gemeinschaftspraxis dieses Gartens hervorgehen: Wer zu “Esta es una Plaza” beitragen will, tut dies, indem er seine/ihre Idee vorstellt – und bekommt dann (in den meisten Fällen) einen Zeitraum und Ort zur Verfügung gestellt um sie zu realisieren. Die Künstler*innen dürfen bis zu 6 Monate an ihrem Werk arbeiten. Die große Holztafel, die die Sechsfüßler unserer Gärten illustriert, wurde vor übrigens vor 4 Jahren von einer Biologin namens Zeeba geschaffen. Ähnlich freie Arrangements gelten für Workshops, Konzerte und Theaterstücke … und sicherlich verdanken auch einige der überall verstreuten DIY-Gartenkunstwerke ihre Existenz dieser freizügigen Praxis.

Eine Besonderheit des Orts ist der Kakteengarten, der von Antonio Alfaro entworfen wurde und seitdem liebevoll von ihm gepflegt wird. Hunderte sorgfältig angeordneter Exemplare leben hier auf drei Steinterrassen, in Gemeinschaft mit weiteren Sukkulenten und – wie ein zweiter Blick offenbart – einem “Club” unaufdringlich charmanter Artefakte … una lagartija (Eidechse) … un erizo (Igel) … und mehr. Das erstaunliche botanische Wissen, das sich in der Kakteenlandschaft zeigt, erklärt sich schnell: Antonio ist  Mitglied der “Cactófilos” oder mit anderen Worten der ASOCIACIÓN CACTUS Y SUCULENTAS DE MADRID :)

 
 
 

 
 
Nach mehr als 10 Jahren aktiver Gemeinschaft ist es daher kaum eine Überraschung, das auch das Radio-Kollektiv von Radio Hortelana “Esta es una Plaza” für sich entdeckte. 2014 veranstalteten sie ein Live-Radio-Event vor Ort mit Interviews, Konzerten, Vorträgen und einem Blog, der auf ihre Podcasts verlinkt ist.

Weitere Radio-Gardening-Nachrichten in den nächsten Tagen und Wochen. Definitiv bevorstehend ist dieser Open Call:
    
  • Ein internationales Kurzfilmfestival über Urban Gardening!
  • Humus Film Festival beginnt am 16. März 2018
  • In Madrid in “La Casa Encendida”
  • Open Call bis 5. März

Dank an Alberto für diesen Tipp!

 

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