The temporary exhibit was designed to show potential solutions to challenges in the housing market. CTA demonstrated how shipping containers could be converted into affordable, flexible domestic spaces quickly and cheaply. Our ornamental and edible planting integrated into the design, showing how such a space could be beautiful, productive and biodiverse.
It was quite tricky to find plants that were looking good in the middle of September, so we travelled out to North Hill Nurseries to hand pick the best specimens. We would NEVER have normally thought to put the purple banana (Ensete ventricosum ‘Maurelli’) with blood grass (Imperata rubra ‘Red Baron’), but when we tried it out we found the colours matched perfectly – with the purple-red blurring into an acid yellow-green on both species. You can see us installing them in this video:
There were two other areas to plant with ornamentals on the ground floor, and we chose radically different schemes for each one, to demonstrate the range of options open to people (and also to exercise our creative juices!) Near the bananas we placed cotton lavender (Santolina chamaecyparissus) with Verbena bonariensis. Another combination we would never normally have thought of, it was designed as an architectural scheme, with the strong rounded domes contrasting with the elegant, thin spikes – reminiscent of the Millennium Dome perhaps.
On the other side of the building, in the shade, we offered a spectrum of colour, demonstrating the amazing versatility of Heuchera cultivars – from acid yellow to deepest purple. Backed by the deep blue of the shipping container and the dynamic patterns from Eley Kishimoto’s wallpaper strips, the effect was quite striking!
We punctuated these with grasses (Pennisetum & Stipa tenuissima), to create variety in the height and to add movement.
Lastly, on the roof, we created an edible area in raised beds and pots.
Many of the vegetables were grown from seed at our base at the time in Rotherhithe, with additions from nurseries in the form of bright chilli bushes, ornamental brassicas and lovely Red Devil apples.
The only sad part of the project was that is lasted so briefly – as a temporary exhibit, it was all packed up and distributed to new homes after a month. But it was an early step in our ongoing journey to demonstrate what is possible with plants in urban spaces.