Dig the City 2014: The city goes green

Susie Stubbs

Manchester’s urban gardening festival makes a welcome return – with show gardens, pop-ups and fabulous florals.

When it launched last year, Dig the City seemed like a slightly curious thing. A gardening festival – in Manchester? Much as we love this fair city, we’re realistic enough to recognise that our hometown is not best known for its acres and acres of rolling green gardens, so the decision to put a gardening festival slap bang in its middle wasn’t the most obvious choice. And yet – it somehow was. Because Dig the City was an urban gardening festival, with a focus on how to plant up balconies and city gardens, and turn small, unloved patches of nothing into small, much-loved horticultural triumphs. It also featured a temporary forest (whose trees have since settled in to their new homes at NOMA), a disco and some bloody big balloon art, which, we’ll be very honest, kind of sold it to us.

There’s everything from a sound garden to Tatton’s pruned-to-within-an-inch-of-its-life Japanese Garden

The festival returns this year with the same mix of inspiration and hands-on expertise. The latter comes in the form of talks led by “city gardener” Diarmuid Gavin and TV expert Rachel de Thame, while the former, the show gardens, feature everything from a sound garden (created by the Bridgewater Hall) to a recreation of Tatton’s pruned-to-within-an-inch-of-its-life Japanese Garden. We particularly like the fact that Yo Sushi has teamed up with Tatton to run a live sushi-making session direct from that particular show garden. Others feature heritage vegetables (get a load of what the Tudors ate) and bee-friendly planting, while the small people in your lives are very well served thanks to den-building, bird box-making and a National Trust tree house.

Dig runs across the whole of the city centre, and the fact that it has an urban feel allows it to be slightly more expansive than, say, the more traditional flower show over at Tatton Park. So, alongside the gardens is a nine-day long programme of live music and food pop-ups, a dog show and the return of both the Dig the City Disco and last year’s rather good W.I. fête. The artistic side of this year’s event, meanwhile, comes courtesy of Northern Quarter florist, Frog Flowers; expect the fountain in St. Ann’s Square to be given the sort of flamboyant floral makeover that’ll have Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen jealously weeping into his voluminous shirt. All in all, then, the return of Dig the City is a very welcome one – and with the sun shining and the bees, in our city garden at least, a-buzzing, it’s also one that makes perfect sense.

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