Top of the plots – Britain’s best allotments
What began as book research – to find beautiful and interesting allotments – became a pilgrimage to Britain’s top plots
By Lia Leendertz
12 April 2013
Last year Lia Leendertz and Mark Diacono tracked down 30 of the most beautiful and interesting allotments in the country for their new book My Cool Allotment.
The allotmenters on whom photographer Mark Diacono and I eventually settled ran the complete gamut, from the old boys doing things the traditional way – all sharply edged and weed-free beds – to the permaculturists seeking out a new and more sustainable path, with not an inch of bare ground to show for themselves. Each would be horrified by the other’s plots, but each starts from the same basic point: the same-sized plot of rented land and a desire to grow. Artists, jam-makers, a prize dahlia grower and a grower of dye plants had all turned their plots to their own particular needs. We found orchards, vineyards, cut flower gardens and national plant collections, all as different as can be, all homed in plots of roughly 10 poles (to use the medieval word that lingers on purely for the measuring of allotments) or about 250 square metres.
Give any number of people this piece of land and each will do something entirely different with it. Chris Achilleos in London has turned his entire allotment into a beautiful flower garden, complete with pergolas, seating and spectacular flower borders, a world away from the rows of potatoes and onions of neighbouring plots. His own flamboyant mosaics peep out from the lush growth. Nell Nile in Bristol is an artist who uses her plot as an escape from her work, and yet the same palette in which she works her colourful pastel canvases seems to have spilled out on to her allotment borders. They feature the very same corals, raspberries, purples and egg-yolk yellows, as if she has some compulsion to fill the world with these particular colours.