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Published January 2nd 2013
Possibly the most unlikely spot for a kitchen garden
A bit of green, albeit with artificial turf, suspended overhead above Lonsdale Street where some one with an indefatigable green thumb is trying to nurture a kitchen garden. A valiant effort, I might add, given the oven-like temperatures that might come about on hot days. It might come as something of a surprise to learn that this is at Melbourne Central, the epitome of commercialism and entertainment.
Level 2 on Melbourne Central is where you'll find the haute couture stores and boutiques—names you don't come across too often. And as you keep walking along such shop fronts as Olrik Denmark, Armani Exchange, Seed et al towards Lonsdale St, you come to a random kitchen garden that looks totally out of place verging on an aberration. Some art deco structure or retro art form would have been more at home at this location, but there you go. This used to be the walkway that took you across the street to Myers. But the apparently eternal renovations going on there seems to have rendered the walkway redundant and hence its avatar as a community kitchen garden.
The eccentricity is not limited to its proximity to fashionable boutiques. This kitchen garden is laid out on artificial turf. Real grass would have been a fantastic option given the amount of sunlight that warms up the place. It's possibly the high maintenance this calls for and issues of hygiene that shot down this option. Anyway the plastic grass does do its job and imitate real greenery very well. Vegetable plants are grown in planters and large barrels. You will find herbs such as sage, basil, and mint alongside other varieties. You are allowed to pick some for yourself if you want to. They also welcome volunteers to lend a hand with the manual labour that this gardening work calls for.
Let's face it though. Not all who wander around here have any burning inclination to pick up a fork and dig around. This spot is a favourite with customers who just want a scenic spot in which to rest their shopped-out limbs. The area is perfect for that. The far wall that stops you from toppling onto the construction that's going on beyond has colourful murals along with random phone numbers, messages, and fainthearted attempts at graffiti.
These, however, fail to take away from the beauty of the artwork. There are random cushions strewn around so you can even take a nap if you so desire. In fact, I saw a couple of people do just that. Adjacent to them was a family of four with a toddler having the run of the place and trying to push a barrow that was fixed to the ground.
The area suspended above Lonsdale St traffic is covered in glass on three sides letting in ample sunlight yet offering protection against the elements. In cold weather it's a perfect spot to sit and stare or read a book as the central heating of the building warms you nicely. There are seating arrangements positioned just so you can look out on the world or contemplate the skyline.
I've always wondered how nice it must be to sit there during heavy rains or storms. I've never really managed to accomplish this, but it's most certainly on my list of things to do. In hot weather, however, the place is far from being a comfortable hangout. It's a great location to catch some sun, but definitely not for long periods of time.
The kitchen garden does tend to lose its vigour during the hot summer months. The last time I visited, the number of plants seem to have come down by half and what was left of the garden appeared to be left to fend for themselves. The tough ones brave it out even as they hope for cooler weather and some tender loving care, I guess. I was surprised to see a little bird who appeared to be an inmate. It didn't appear scared of humans but was rather camera shy. Can't help wondering how it got there; just hope it finds its way out of there safe.