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Thoughts of an old Seinfeld episode have led to a project connecting Scullin residents this lockdown.
Inspiration famously comes in all forms. For Scullin resident Jim Sharrock, when lockdown 2.0 hit Canberra the keen gardener found himself thinking about how to help his community stay occupied outdoors.
Jim’s mind wandered to an old Seinfeld episode where Kramer adopts a stretch of highway. From there, it was just a leap (or two!) to his local shops, where the perfect community project was waiting, and lockdown was the ideal time to kick it off.
He reached out to the Scullin Community Group with a proposal:
“Why don’t we ask households to ‘adopt-a-plot’ of flowers or plants around the shops? They can plant, weed and mulch them year-round.”
Adele Sinclair, the community group’s Green Spaces coordinator and vice-president, loved the concept.
Over the last 15 months and with support of the ACT Government’s Adopt-A-Park project and last year’s Floriade Reimagined, she’s coordinated residents to plant 1200 trees, scrubs and flowers across Scullin through seven gardening bees (five more events are planned for the next 12 months).
Lockdown has temporarily curtailed formal events, but Adele could see how residents could look after their adopted plot in their daily recreational time during lockdown whilst complying with current COVID restrictions.
Within days, the Scullin community swung into action. Jim called for interest on Scullin’s 800+ member Facebook group; all 24 plots were snapped up within days. He set to work making a map, labelling plot numbers and making temporary signs with household names on each (wooden replacements are on the way via new Scullin resident Joanna Bindi).
Adele calculated volumes of plants and mulch, and put in some online orders for gardeners to collect contactless from Jim’s driveway on their daily walks. She then worked with the Scullin Community Group committee to reallocate $1500 of grant funding from community events cancelled due to lockdown to the garden project.
It’s been money well spent. Already, the new plot owners are out there getting their beds ready: mowing, mulching, weeding, preparing soil for new plants and remediating some “less loved” sections. Twelve garden plots feature in the courtyard of the Scullin shops, complementing the large wildlife mural and wicking beds organised by the group in 2019. Another 12 plots are scattered nearby, after being originally planted during Floriade Reimagined by residents in 2020.
Jazzy Dhoria was one resident who spent a day planting tulips and annuals like petunias and pansies last year. She jumped at the chance to adopt her own slice of Scullin plant life.
“I saw how it drew people to the shops. Flowers and plants have that effect,” she says.
Jazzy and her husband will be nurturing their plot through lockdown and beyond.
“We’ve adopted a tulip garden and a courtyard bed. It’s nice for people walking Scullin during lockdown to view the flowers and plants on their walks,” she says.
As every gardener knows, planting is an all-ages activity.
Nicole Sadlier, 45, will be gardening her plot with her 7-year-old son, loves the idea of investing in both the people and the physical landscape within her community while helping her son feel connected to his local environment.
“It makes me feel proud to be part of the Scullin community and gives me a little happy buzz each time I walk past the gardens. Plus, I feel more connected to others when I do something in a public space. Even during COVID lockdown, people walk past and there’s passing conversations and a positive vibe,” says Nicole.
The plots are also providing renters additional chances to get their thumbs green. Cass du Boulay and her 6-year-old Mia are enjoying mother-daughter time at their plot.
“We moved to Scullin 18 months ago in a rental thinking it was move until we bought a place of our own. We love the community here and are now trying to buy here,” she says.
Like Nicole, Cass and Jazzy, Jocelyn Vasey and her husband Dennis Flannery both age 70, value the connection to community during lockdown.
Jocelyn has been a regular volunteer with the Scullin Community Group since it began in 2018. She staffed the till at their former community-run store the Scullin Traders, supports the group’s regular Bunnings BBQs, and gets involved in a range of volunteer tasks.
“We have met a wonderful range of community members through involvement in Scullin Community Group activities. Adopting a garden bed is one thing we can do safely during lockdown that also looks forward – there’ll be a time when our community can come together again in a space that is nurtured by the people who value it,” she says.
As Scullin residents continue to work together on their green spaces, the project is also proof of how something as simple as plants can help all #KenBehrens.
“Just seeing people’s names on the garden beds makes me feel closer to the people who make up our community. A feeling of connection is so important right now,” says Nicole.
Feature image: Mia Du Boulay working on their family garden plot. Credit: Cass du Boulay