Urban farming and the gardening movement: Prinzessinnengarten in Berlin

December 4, 2011

A dear old friend of mine introduced me this year to “Prinzessinnengarten”, an urban garden community in the middle of Berlin.

A couple of days ago I read in the Bangkok Post, my daily newspaper, about the re-emergence of the urban gardening movement with a reference to the “Prinzessinnengarten”, and I thought, great, I have seen them in July with my own eyes.

During my student days at Bonn University, I always had a garden or was involved in some gardening venture. Usually together with some friends, we would rent a vacant plot of land in a deserted gardening colony or other public land designated for urban gardening.

We took issue with the older movement of “Schrebergaerten”, an earlier tradition of urban gardening in Germany, which we considered parochial, dull and boring. Instead we sympathised more with the tradition of the hippy and flower-power movements.

In fact our gardens were also always places for extensive garden parties with lots of alcohol and loud music.

But my gardening roots are much older than that. In fact my paternal grandfather, Hans Schuessler was the one who introduced me to gardening at the tender age of 5 or so.

Working for the railways he always maintained various gardens usually near to the rails where he grew vegetables and all kinds of fruit. He also made delicious fruit wines, and all kinds of marmalade and gelées/jellies.

“Prinzenssinnengarten” is an oasis of peace and quiet in the middle of Germany’s biggest mega-city. It offers food and drink and a wide range of entertainment as well.

The garden was set up in 2009 and it took just two years to make it into an urban paradise.

All kinds of boxes can be used to create opportunities for growing stuff

More boxes and..

..also plastic sacks to grow potatoes

…and cabbages

Crates to grow zucchini and rhubarb

Tomatoes are grown under plastic roofs

Nurseries are also included in Prinzessinnengarten

Prices are modest and the revenue generated is for a good cause

Enjoy

It is worth to visit “Prinzessinnengarten”, that’s for sure.


Good bye my terrace garden

March 12, 2011

My terrace in Thonglor, Bangkok

Today was the last day on my terrace garden in Thonglor. We are moving from Wednesday onwards into new premises in Ekkamai, just a block further away from our beloved Baan Phansiri which was our home for the first two and a half years here in Bangkok.

“From all that he loves, man must part”, is an old saying, and parting it is again. I have had my own gardens since university days, often together with friends.

Hans-Heinrich Schuessler, my maternal grandfather, introduced me not only to appreciate wine but he also laid the seeds for my gardening passion. When I was just a little boy he took me with him to his many gardens. As station master of the German Railways, my grandfather had various gardens along the railway line in Martinstein, Nahe – a wonderful wine region by the way. I never had to do any work. That was somehow the trick, I suppose. Friends of mine who were made to work as children usually hate gardening or agricultural tasks. In striking contrasts I just love them.

Together with friends at Bonn University I cultivated various gardens in the vicinity of the university town. I planned fruit trees, scrubs and vegetable patches, and left all behind when moving abroad. Every garden partner had his skills, his passion and his magic. And we celebrated many parties deep into the night in our gardens.

Later in Rome I set up a terrace garden overlooking Garbatella, a resettled neighborhood south of the city center. My lemon trees produces beautiful fruit. In Beijing I had a glass corridor on the 11th floor which I greened with various indoor plants. In New Delhi I grew Indian vegetables. Our household staff watched in disbelief when ‘sahib’ got his hands dirty while digging in the back garden. But when they saw the veggies growing strongly, they all asked me for seeds.

The biggest tropical garden I ever had was in Jakarta, in Lebak Bulus, in South Jakarta to be precise. Five rambutan and two mango trees were a constant source of sweet and wonderful tropical fruit. I grew also papaya and star fruit.

Here in Bangkok the terrace was my place to relax and dream. Quasi an illusion, a place to worship nature, but basically to make me forget the noise and pollution of the city around me with its huge construction sites, the skyscrapers, and the constant stream of cars, and endless noise.

Today, I prepared my many pots for the move. I had to cut a few bigger scrubs and transplant some others. Also my many orchids needed some tender care. Since I have to leave for Germany today, I will not be around for the move next week.

I will have a terrace in the new location as well but a covered one (therefore not all my plants will grow), and not one with an open sky. So I had to lay there for a last time and look up into the clouds and the endless sky. Needless to say that I am very sad to leave this place where I felt so much at home.

But as the saying goes: “From all that he loves, man must part”, and so I try to look ahead with beautiful memories which no one can take away from me.

Good bye my terrace garden in Thonglor. Thank you for the pleasure and the good times.