Interview with Douglas Allenby June 28, 2018

Douglas Allenby designed the hard landscaping for the Courtyard Garden.
  • When did you first encounter Martineau Gardens? I came across it back in the 1980s when I was a student at Birmingham University studying Geography and loving anything and everything outdoors. I also remember the amazing post-Medieval ridge and furrow field pattern just to the north of the Gardens on what was the former Edgbaston Hockey Club land but is now part of the extended Priory Tennis Club. I also used to run / stagger past the Gardens and up the long Priory Road hill on a regular basis when I trained for a half marathon!
  • What is the appeal of Martineau Gardens for you? As part of my landscape architecture training I visited the site to see how you reached out to and involved the local community in a wide variety of imaginative ways and as someone who is married to a therapeutic counsellor we were both interested to learn how you used the staff, environment, and crafts/activities to engender a sense of peace and healing to those who might be struggling.  I love the fact that this centre is located right in the heart of the city within easy reach of so many people; it is a glorious green oasis. The staff are committed, knowledgeable, caring, friendly, and keen to reach out to the local community as well as bring them on board. It can be a fun learning experience for people of all ages and abilities. You can definitely get a ‘quart into a pint pot’- the site may not have a slick visual appearance but it is a deceptively complex series of spaces and habitats that have been cleverly and beautifully laid out on a small, linear plot of land.
  • How have you been involved with the Courtyard Garden Project? The scale and scope of the work involved? When Caroline approached me to design the courtyard garden, I was really excited as it seemed such a perfect fit for both organisations – the Gardens because it would entail the creation of some stunning scented external spaces, and Jo Malone London because the new gardens would look and be used in ways that match their ethos. Due to the age, years of constant usage, and anticipated increases in future user numbers the Pavilion and some of the surrounding landscaped areas within the central core of the Gardens were looking tired and in need of either replacement or repair. The complete refurbishment of the Pavilion means that it will be a major new draw to the site. Consequently, the surrounding courtyard area also needed a similar sensitively designed facelift to make it fit for C21st Key elements will include :-

*A new grass events area that can if necessary accommodate a marquee.

*An improved access drive, turning area, and delivery parking facility close to main offices.

*Greatly enhanced pedestrian and disability access provision both to the courtyard area as a whole as well as specifically to the ramped hot house and large greenhouse.

*A natural stone scree garden that replaces an aged formal raised alpine garden display.

*The replacement of a tired looking, rectangular pond and a stunning new water display that combines a smaller formal upper fish pond, via a stone rill, and a larger, more sinuous wildlife pond.

*Improved drainage to paths and planting beds to extend the visitor season and ensure that the soft landscape elements survive in the long term.

*Hard landscape features such as attractive timber archways at key locations within the garden area (complete with power and lighting supplies for garden day and evening events), new planters and containers, as well as botanical signage to help visitors learn / remember their ‘favourite’ species.

*The whole courtyard scheme will then be complimented by, and visually united with a scented planting scheme that has been devised by Emma Coleman. It will provide all year round interest both in terms of colour and texture, which in their turn will enhance those used in the hard landscape elements and surfaces.

  • What will bring to the space, and the people who volunteer and visit the gardens? I hope that it will help to breathe fresh life into the core part of the site; the new dynamic and practical spaces / features should give more enjoyment to a greater number of visitors without it feeling ‘too crowded’; the new features will tie in seamlessly with and help to improve the wider garden areas; and finally that everyone will be able to enjoy the scheme using all of their senses, whether stopping to relax or actively participating in a gardening task, training, or craft.
  • Has therapeutic horticulture this influenced your design? Nature and horticulture when combined with skilled and caring people can be extremely beneficial and healing to those who may be suffering from stress, or have physical or mental health issues. We have tried to create a range of accessible spaces with different characters (in terms of their size, layout, planting, textures, and surfacing) so that everyone should be able to find a ‘safe’ space for their own particular needs. It might be simply enjoying the fish swimming lazily in the top pond, the sound of the water gently tumbling down the rill, the sun glinting off the ripples in the bottom pond, the scent of the planting bringing back fond memories, or the soft touch of flower or leaf. By making the site an attractive setting where they can take part and learn about horticulture and wildlife conservation it will hopefully encourage visitors and volunteers to come back time and time again to enjoy the seasonal changes, take active exercise, and socialize in a friendly accepting environment.
  • What does coming to the gardens mean to you? That has a two-fold answer! Professionally, I am trying my best to ensure that the approved design is implemented correctly to a high standard that will not only look good at the official opening this summer but will stand the test of time. Personally, I love to see how the site changes through the year as well as the infectious enthusiasm and creativity that emanates from all the staff and volunteers that I meet.
  • What’s your favourite area within the Gardens? There are so many. I love the fruit and vegetable growing areas – hard work, fun, and skills can result in a rich harvest; exploring the site and stumbling across a surprising new view / quiet corner / plant that you had not noticed before; the play features as they inspire my ‘child’ imagination; and going inside the ‘exotic’ hot house.

I have really enjoyed the positive can-do attitude of the Garden staff, design team members, and contractors who have all collaborated well together to bring this Jo Malone London scheme to completion despite a limited budget and at times awful weather conditions.

June 2018

Closing early Tues 26 June June 25, 2018

Welcome to the Gardens … but please note, on Tues 26 June, we’re closing at 2.30pm for a Private Event.

Apologies for any disappointment, please come and see us again – back open on Wednesday, 10am.

Reusing pots June 25, 2018

As an organisation which values recycling – we’ve been enjoying re-purposing items and saving them from the tip. Stewart (Therapeutic Horticulturist) and the Garden Volunteers have been planting up this week: there’s a cement mixer, a washing machine inner and a dustbin here.

Volunteering Opportunities at Martineau Gardens May 30, 2018

Please come and find out about volunteering opportunities at Martineau Gardens at  the BVSC Volunteer Fair, at Digbeth on Monday 4 June 2018.

We’d especially like to recruit more Visitor Welcome Team volunteers (VWT) to join our current team. Our VWT volunteers get involved with all aspects of welcoming visitors to the Gardens. From making hot drinks and selling plants, to helping out at events – there’s an enormous range of activities you could find yourself doing. We have vacancies for weekday slots and weekend slots – come and talk to us at the Fair about what you’d like to do.

Looking ahead, we’re looking to develop the catering opportunities available at Martineau Gardens – if you have catering experience, please come and talk to us.

Thinking of volunteering but not sure what you want to do, or what opportunities are available? Come along to this event and meet around 40 local charities, all currently looking for volunteers to help them in their work. There’s something for everyone – whether you’re looking to share your current skills and expertise, or whether you want to do something completely different!

An event not to be missed!  How else will you meet more than 40 local charities all in one place?

When and where:

Mon 4 June, 4.30-7.30 pm

BVSC, 138 Digbeth, B5 6DR

No need to book – just pop in.

Find out more.


Half-term fun at Martineau Gardens May 29, 2018

Tues 20 May to Fri 1 June 2018

This half-term bring the family to Martineau Gardens – try your hand at PizzaCraft, learn how to cook pizzas outdoors in our Earth Oven, foraging for herbs within the our beautiful community garden. Or, why not find out more about the wildlife that makes its home in the woodland here, with Family Habitat Explorers.

Advance booking essential, click on the links below for ticket information – or call Martineau Gardens on 0121 440 7430 to check latest availability on tickets.

Pizza Craft     Tues 29 May 2pm – 4pm   or Wed 30 May 2pm – 4pm

Family Habitat Explorers    Thurs 31 May 10am, or Thurs 31 May 1.30pm,  or Fri 1 June 10am or Fri 1 June 1.30pm


Director announcement May 16, 2018

Pictured here, staff of Martineau Gardens at the entrance of the woodland. Gill Milburn, receiving the keys from Caroline Hutton.

In our twenty-first year as a community garden, we bid farewell to Caroline Hutton (Director at Martineau Gardens for 17 years) and welcome Gill Milburn. Gill joined Martineau Gardens and became our Director in April 2018.

At the end of her first month, Gill said: “I’ve been in post just a month, I’ve been  getting to know staff, volunteers and Friends through various activities from planting perennials around the new pond to minor engineering around the washbasins, with plenty of meetings, conferences and conversations in between.  My introduction to this organisation has shown to me the warmth and affection people hold for Martineau Gardens.  I’m looking forward to contributing to the sustainability and enjoyment of the Gardens.”

Gill got to know Birmingham  through her job as a Gambling Commissioner, and moved to the city in 2009. During her eight year term on the audit committee  and the remuneration committee, Gill was involved with overseeing implementing the Gambling Act, corporate governance, regulatory compliance and enforcement and stakeholder management. For the last eight years, Gill has worked in the charity sector for mental health and with older people.

Caroline is retiring; she is working on special projects until the end of June 2018. Caroline says: “After 17 years, I’m stepping down. Thanks to all the tremendous support I received from volunteers, trustees and colleagues.”

Closed 16 and 17 May for resurfacing works May 14, 2018

Martineau Gardens (including the children’s play area) will be closed on Wed 16 and Thursday 17 May for resurfacing works. For plant sales and compost, call back on Friday!

Apologies for any disapointment – but come back and visit us at the Spring Event this weekend, Sunday 20 May 2018 (11am – 3pm) – click here for more details

Find out more about the progress on our new Courtyard Garden here.


February -cooking with artichokes February 5, 2018

Fork to Fork – a blog about cooking and gardening inspired by what’s in season at Martineau Gardens.

Written and photographed by one of our volunteers, alias Sam Spade the Digging Detective.

It’s February and I’m in love….with Jerusalem artichokes

 This week we have been digging up and cooking Jerusalem artichokes. No need to peel, just give them a good scrub and away you go.

Recipe :1 Jerusalem Artichoke and Toasted Almond Soup 

Recipe from Abel and Cole : the Veg Box Companion, by Keith Abel  (a marvellous book)


1 tbsp of butter and 1tbsp olive oil, 1 large onion or 5 – 6 shallots, 8- 10 largish artichokes scrubbed and thinly sliced, 2 Garlic cloves finely chopped, a splash of sherry, Marsala or Apple juice, 4 tbsp hazelnuts or almonds toasted and roughly ground, A few sprigs of thyme, leaves only, 600ml chicken or veg stock, warmed, A drizzle of cream to serve…recipe says optional..but for the team it was a must


Pop butter and oil into heavy bottomed pot and place over a medium heat. When the butter foams add onion, sizzle slowly until golden. Add Jerusalem artichokes and garlic. Cover. Turn heat down and sweat until really soft. Stir often. Top tip when I made the soup I sweated the artichokes until they were very broken down, I wonder if that added to the intense flavour. Pour in the liquid…booze or juice add the nuts and let it sizzle. Add the thyme and stock. Blitz. Pass through a sieve for that smooth consistency. Check the seasoning and serve with the cream.

Recipe: 2 Jerusalem Artichokes in Cheese Batter

I came across a recipe whilst researching Artichokes, I haven’t tried it out on the team yet. It is taken from a war time book by Marguerite Patten: We’ll Eat Again, Economical Recipes. Serves four.


1 lb artichokes, seasoning, 6 oz plain flour, 2 x eggs, ½ pint of milk, 2 – 3 oz grated cheese


Scrub and boil artichokes in salted water until tender. Peel and cut in thick slices.  Make the batter and add the cheese. Oil in the oven until sizzling. Add the batter then the Artichokes and cook for approx. 25 mins.

Recipe: 3 Artichokes with Cracked Wheat

Finally a recipe from our volunteer Hayat Hewitt, a marvellous Lebanese cook with her own way of doing things so no measurements with this one, but give it a go. A little experimenting never hurt anyone.


1 x onion, 1 x cup of cracked wheat, stock, cinnamon, seasoning, tomato puree, 4 or 5 artichokes, mushrooms


Fry the onion until soft, then add the cracked wheat and the chopped mushrooms. Stir until coated with oil. Add tomato puree and stock, simmer until cooked. Roast or boil the artichokes and add them to the cooked cracked wheat, serve with salad and yoghurt.

Note from our Director, these vegetables come with an ‘F’ rating – some people can be affected by them, they can give you a good bit of wind.

Freshly grown artichokes are on sale from the sales area * at Martineau Gardens (£3 per kilo).  (*Subject to availability, please give us a ring first to check supplies on 0121 440 7430 if you’re making a specific journey to buy them.)

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LoveBrum and our Vegetable Beds November 8, 2017

Have you seen the film about our vegetable beds?  

Vote at LoveBrum for us to receive £2,000 from Monday 20 until midday Friday 24 November 2017.

LoveBrum kindly made a video for us to explain how the £2,000 will be used, watch the film above and see Miranda beside the Vegetable Beds:

The vegetable beds at Martineau Gardens are one of the first things that visitors see on entering the Gardens, looked after by Miranda Kingston (Therapeutic Horticulturalist) and our Garden Volunteers (including young people from special schools)  – they’re a fantastic educational resource for the school children who visit the Gardens regularly, not to mention our visitors who enjoying being able to buy  seasonal produce fresh from the growing site.

It’s time to get the vegetable bed structures replaced.

The current vegetable beds’ boards and pegs are falling apart – the earth is spilling out and they are becoming a trip hazard. It’s becoming more difficult for people with poor mobility to visit and work on this area of our gardens. Help us improve disabled access to the vegetable beds so everyone can enjoy them.

LoveBrum, the charity that supports Birmingham-based projects delivering change, have selected Martineau Gardens as one of three potential ’causes’ to benefit from their monthly grant allocation of £2,000. We could be the beneficiaries, but we need your help!

Save the date and vote for us!

Please save the date:  Monday 20 November  – would you please go to the LoveBrum website here: and vote for us.

You can vote up until midday Friday 24 November.

You’ll need to select Martineau Gardens from the three causes, enter your name and e-mail address to vote as a non-member (look out for a verification email in your email in-box and then click the verification link to confirm your vote).


About LoveBrum:

LoveBrum is a Birmingham charity that engages with and supports local people and businesses to build an even better Birmingham. In their own words: “We support local, Birmingham-based projects that are delivering real, tangible change and making our beautiful city even better. It is our members that vote on which projects we support. We celebrate all that is good within Brum, and want to restore some civic pride. Brum, let’s do this!”


Summer days – the vegetable beds and seasonal produce on sale at the Autumn Event:


A new chapter begins … a new Director November 6, 2017

2017 has been the year we have celebrated 20 years of Community Gardening, dedicated a building to former patron Mollie Martineau and begun the refurbishment of the Pavilion. This is also the year that we begin the recruitment process for a successor to Caroline Hutton, Director of Martineau Gardens. Caroline is retiring, in Spring 2018.

If this is of interest to you, or somebody you know, you can access the application pack, by clicking here: 

Deadline: Friday 10 November 2017, 5pm