Going a bit potty


The Guinness Trust have a new “Clear Corridor and Communal Area Procedure”.

They say they want to provide an environment where “customers, visitors, members of the public, contractors and staff are protected as far as is reasonably practicable, from the effects of fire and other hazards.”

What does this actually mean ? It means that, within a matter of a few days, contractors and staff, visitors and members of the public – as well as the residents themselves  – are going to be free from the dangers posed by their potted plants.

Here the potted planters speak out.




A couple of years ago I was awarded the gardening prize for the best patio – £50 Argos voucher, presented by Guinness at our general meeting. I used the money to buy these herbs and plants which are there for the whole community – I’ve got spinach, potatoes, rhubarb, bay, lavender, comfrey, mint for tea and chives for salad.  Some of it comes from Columbia Road Market, some from Spitalfields. I’ve been growing grapes here for ten years. I started this patio garden from money I got from the Mayor London. Now they want me to bin them all.

I spoke with a Guinness surveyor ten days  ago – all he could say was the pots were a fire hazard. There must be 500 pots on the estate – where are they supposed to go? No thought has been given to their disposal. They just bunged a sticker on the pot and told us to move it by Monday. This is an attack on the elderly, the weak and the vulnerable – actually the plants and gardening club activities on the estate are the single most inclusive activity we have. They bring people together.




I’m 83 – these flowers give a lot of pleasure to us elderly ones on the estate. My wife and I, we try to keep it a bit decent up here. A little bit of flower makes it look nice. It’s actually a slight degree warmer up here, outside the flat, than on the patio, so my geraniums grow well here. I guess it’s protected.  Not that it’s a competition!  Chrisp Street in Poplar, that’s where I go for my flowers




I don’t like to see a dead place so I made this garden. Everywhere you can see I’ve got colour. Geraniums are easy to look after, but I like the lupins and the alpines, though they are difficult to grow here. I even have birds nesting outside my window. Everything you see is a story. I go down to Clifton Nursery in Warwick Avenue, up Paddington Way and on Fridays you can get a really good deal up Watney Market, on a Friday.




I like to water the pots because I like to see them grow.



I have my geraniums and I have my mint and coriander. When you wake up and you see the flowers  you feel good – it’s healthy. I buy them from Sainsburys, in a tray, or sometimes mail order.




I grew these all from fruit, from the seed.  From around London, from here and there. You have to be patient when you grow from seed. These have taken me five years to grow. I love my plants. Now I will have to give them away. I am upset and very sad. I have depression now.



Alex and Jr

We look after these with our neighbours. Sometimes we water them and sometimes they water them. It makes the corridor more cheerful.




I spoke with Guinness as soon as I heard. They’ve gone about it the wrong way, putting stickers on our pots, telling us we need to get rid of them by Monday. When I spoke to Guinness they told me the pots were flammable, that it’s a health and safety issue. If it’s health and safety that they are worried about they could start by checking all the balcony fire doors – none of the original ones are fire resistant. None of them. And they’re worried about my chilli pots!




I love my flowers.



This wooden pot was given to me by my brother and sister-in-law and it’s here that I plant out my Forget-Me-Nots for my parents and also the Remembrance Cross, which I renew every November and remember our brave men and women, the fallen.  I’ve had pots here for 26 years.  In fact, it was the first estate manager, Mr Doyle, who came with me to buy my first down at the nursery by St Katherine’s Dock, where the yacht club is now, and helped me carry it home. It’s a very heavy concrete tub by the door.  I didn’t think I’d ever have to move it.