Babylon Reborn!

Sheila Rodgers' eco-modern ?hanging gardens? have made the move from her Docklands balcony to Body & Soul...

If you've walked past a particular millennial apartment block off St John Rogerson's Quay recently, your gaze will instantly have been drawn upwards to a second-floor balcony, where an unusual display has been catching the eyes of passers-by for months. Suspended, seemingly in thin air, against a glass balcony you'd have spied rows and rows of plastic bottles filled with a fecund cornucopia of edible greenery, with pretty pots of flowering plants dotted beneath. That balcony is bare today, but - fear not - that's because artist and musician Sheila Rodgers' experimental horticultural installation has moved temporarily to the grounds of Ballinlough Castle for the?Body & Soul festival, where she has re-suspended the plants using all recycled and rescued materials. We caught up with Sheila before she packed up her bottles and pots and headed for Westmeath...

Congratulations on your beautiful balcony garden, Sheila. Where did you get the idea for it?
The project was conceived as ?The Hanging Gardens of Body & Soul?, and the idea came to me because I had a lot of doubts about the quality of our tap water. I really feel that we should be able to drink tap water in Ireland without having to wonder if it's up to standard, so I decided to use this as one of the focuses for the project. I'm also a lover of the environment and fresh produce so I thought I could combine all three ideas through the recycling of one year's worth of water bottles to grow my own food.

How many bottles have you used in the project and how long has it taken you to grow your garden?
About 180 bottles in total; 150 are being used for plants and some others will be transformed into upcycled furniture. I started collecting the bottles last June but only started growing in March, so just over three months, really.

Did you have any experience of gardening before taking this project on?
Not much! I've been growing my own tomatoes, apples, potatoes and salad leaves for about three years. This is the most I've ever done in one go and I've learned a fair bit fast.


What types of plant are you growing in your hanging garden?
All of them are edible and organic. In the repurposed drinks bottles, I have viola, nasturtium, French and African marigolds, primrose, carnation, lavender, loose-leaf lettuce, rocket, garlic, purple and green cabbage, chives, thyme, mint, carrots, beetroot, kale, cress, celery, leek, peppers... that's it, I think! Also there are strawberries growing in a drainpipe and tomatoes, onions, apples, blueberries, goji berries, raspberries and potatoes in regular pots.

Do plastic bottles make good 'flower pots' or are there any problems with them?
They're great flower pots! The smaller ones would be a bit shallow to grow some veg properly but 5-litre bottles can be used for that.

Can anyone with a balcony reproduce your gorgeous garden?
Yes! My balcony doesn't get much light or rain - so not ideal growing conditions. If I can do it, I'm convinced anyone can. It's such a pleasure to sit on your balcony surrounded by plants you've grown. You will see a huge difference in the amazing wave of wildlife that will suddenly start visiting you too!

Visit Sheila's Hanging Gardens this weekend at the?Body & Soul festival.

Sharon Miney for?@image_interiors

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