Urban greening in Dublin!

“Dear dirty Dublin” said James Joyce, and indeed, litter and dog poo can be two defining features of our fair city’s streets, especially on the north side of the city. But increasingly individuals and communities here are winning back the streets, using windowboxes and climbing plants as ammunition.

These terraced cottages have no front gardens but it hasn’t stopped their creativity. I wrote about them in a blogpost two years ago here.

Greening the inner city

Catherine and Seamus’ house, two years ago.

Today I went back to visit Catherine who lives here and as soon as I entered the street, I noticed the contagion – the gardening bug had spread and having no land wasn’t stopping anyone. Colourful window boxes, hanging baskets, barrels halved and tucked against houses as plant containers. And not just pretty flowers humming with bees, but strawberries and tomato plants spilled out of pots and baskets. An inspirational street, only a mile from the city centre Spire. Catherine’s enthusiasm is infectious and I was thrilled to see that her efforts were recognised with a Neighbourhood Award , 3rd best “garden” in the whole of Dublin.

Greening the inner city

No front garden? No problem for Catherine!

Now my own street is not far from here – we have tiny gardens fronting our 19thC houses, surrounded by railings. Some are neglected for various reasons – complacent landlords and tenants, perhaps unoccupied whilst the elderly owner is in a nursing home, but very often because people feel too busy to be bothered. This year we decided we’d like to make the street come alive with colour and flowers. And luckily Dublin City Council supported us.

Greening the inner city

Our first step was to set up a Residents’ Association. Then we set a date for a Street Clean-up. As the hour approached, the heavens opened, a deluge; I stepped out with my broom hoping one or two others might venture out too; within half an hour, there were 15 of us, ranging in age from 2 years to mid-eighties.

Greening the inner city

 

Greening the inner city

Greening the inner city

There’s nothing glamorous about a clean-up, but six hours later, with quite a lot of banter and laughter, we had accumulated 26 bags of rubbish, cleared out real eyesores, unblocked drains, planted up window-boxes, trimmed hedges, stripped and painted railings. And I think you’ll agree the results are quite impressive – especially for an inner city street.

IMG_4864

 

Greening the inner city

 

Greening the inner city

 

Greening the inner city

 

Greening the inner city

 

Greening the inner city

 

Greening the inner city

 

Greening the inner city

 

Greening the inner city

Now many might feel that, it’s the job of our City Council to clean the streets, and of individuals to look after their own plot. But what if nothing happens? What do you do about dumped rubbish piling up in an abandoned garden? Do you want to live with rats, in an urban desert? Or would you rather hear birdsong in the morning and bees humming in the afternoon? Apathy is an attitude I hate to entertain. And certainly I found the urban Bee Highway in Oslo inspiring.

Greening the inner city

We have not done this to win any prizes. The upside of any community project is the sense of camaraderie it inspires – we share our expertise and skills, we look after each other’s plots when absent, we notice if an elderly neighbour has not been out and about, and police report there is a decline in crime in areas with community groups.

Greening the inner city

There has been a sea change in my street. Illegal dumping of rubbish has declined, more dog owners are carrying plastic bags.  I can report too gardening has become contagious, bees hum through the lavender, there’s the sweet smell of roses, and blackbirds, starlings and blue tits have taken up residence too.

Greening the inner city

 

No longer “Dear dirty Dublin” ? We’ll see.

13 thoughts on “Urban greening in Dublin!

  1. Very impressive. Have you tried a neighborhood plant exchange? Free plants can be very inspiring. One of our local garden clubs have one every year and I have filled my garden with many. Where I live, we have Homeowner Associations and are given citations if our yards are not up to par and eventually it leads to a lien on our homes. Keep up the good work!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Many thanks for all your advice. In fact we have begun a plant exchange and we’re hoping one of our Community gardens will grow plants from seed for us. Many of our residents are novice gardeners so it’s slow, steady progress we’re aiming for. I wish Dublin City Council could do more – there is apparently only one Dog Warden for the whole city and a slow process, sadly hit by austerity policies, to implement by-laws against poor landlords and those who dump rubbish everywhere. So it’s either accept the status quo or roll up our sleeves!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. What a great improvement and a wonderful project. I live in a city that is deplorable and in downward decline. In fact, it is hard to believe it could get worse year after year, but it does. People have tried what you have done but without the positive results. Vandals come in and steal or destroy. Our neighbors just stick to our street which is kept nicely. I admire you for your efforts and hope the goodwill spreads.

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    • Many thanks for your encouragement!
      Setting up the Residents’ Association was a marathon task, but once established, there’s been very positive support. One person can do a lot but it takes the whole community to get on board if it is to be sustainable.
      My own street is pretty good now but a nearby street, full of very fine Georgian houses, is constantly full of illegally dumped rubbish – right in the centre of a capital city.
      I live in hope!

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  3. Bravo! I’m glad people are getting more and more involved to improve their communities but also to enjoy the benefits of their involvement. I enjoyed the many hanging baskets and window boxes chock-a-block with colorful blooms during our time throughout Ireland and while spending time in Dublin it was great to see so many wonderful displays. There are many areas that could still use a tidy-up and were looking a little worse for all the wear and tear. It’s always a shame to see a grand place humbled by decay.
    Thanks for making a difference!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Many thanks for your kind words. Sometimes the effort can seem like a drop in the ocean and it can be very dispiriting to see more dumped rubbish and a “couldn’t care less” attitude but I feel it’s important to keep trying.
      It needs grassroots support of course but, most importantly for decaying cities, we need our local councils and businesses to drive the initiatives. Dublin is a fine city with fabulous architecture, particularly 18th century, which has been allowed to fall into decay or even pulled down due to philistines in the planning depts.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Josephine, the photos were taken around the streets near Blessington Street Basin, in particular Monck Place and Geraldine Street, not very far from the Mater Hospital. We have Council trees planted along the paths so no need to plant within the railings, though we have a number of small trees such as Acers & flowering cherries within the railings.

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