Global Gardens of Peace

Getting into the Christmas spirit and also as an antidote to the news of Australian politicians being undiplomatic in the West Bank, I thought I’d talk about something garden-y and good that’s happening in Gaza for Gardening at Night this week. (This week’s episode is brought to you by the letter ‘G’.)
Anyway…back in 2004, Moira Kelly was in Gaza organising a medical rescue mission. Moira Kelly is an Australian humanitarian who is best known for bringing Trishna and Krishna the Bangladeshi conjoined twins to Australia for surgery.
When she was in Gaza, she visited the Gaza War Cemetery, which is maintained in part by the Office of Australian War Graves. She found the cemetery to be a sanctuary of green space in stark contrast to the bombed streets where she saw children playing. So she decided that the children of Gaza needed a garden.
The very green grass at the Gaza War Cemetery
The very green grass at the Gaza War Cemetery. Photo: Commonwealth War Graves Commission
In 2013 Moira Kelly founded Global Gardens of Peace as an Australia-based charity that would provide gardens for children in war zones, starting with Gaza. The Municipality of Khan Younis in Gaza provided 32,000 square meters of land for the garden. Khan Younis is the location of a large refugee camp that housed 72,000 registered refugees in 2011, 30% of whom were aged under 14.
The Royal Botanic Gardens in Melbourne got on board, with their landscape gardener David Laidlaw leading the team to design the garden. The design for the garden includes a treehouse, a giant slide, a flying fox, fruit trees, vegetable plots, an oasis, and education and cooking facilities.
Global Gardens of Peace has estimated the cost of the project to be A$8.5 million. This includes some provision for a desalination plant, which will be required for the garden’s ongoing maintenance; 90% of the local water supply is considered unfit for human consumption and salinity is a significant problem.
A team from Global Gardens of Peace visited Gaza in November this year and met with representatives from the UNDP and the Municipality of Khan Younis. Despite the positive tone of reports on the visit, the project is still waiting for funds. According to a report in the Canberra Times back in March this year, other nations had offered support but Moira Kelly wants the project to be “a gift from Australia with no strings attached”.
More information about Global Gardens of Peace:
Featured image: “The Treehouse”. Borrowed from Global Gardens of Peace: Moira’s Garden – The Beginning


Peter Corlett's statue of Weary Dunlop. Photo by Kim McKenzie

Image: Weary Dunlop in Kings Domain, Melbourne. Photo by Kim McKenzie

When I think of the Remembrance Day poppy the image that springs to mind is Peter Corlett’s statue of Weary Dunlop in Kings Domain in Melbourne. The poppy association with war began with John McCrae’s poem In Flanders fieldsHe wrote the poem in Belgium in 1915 where, as a medical officer with the Canadian Army, he saw red field poppies (papaver rhoeas) growing in the otherwise devastated landscape of the battlefield in Ypres.

McCrae’s poem inspired YMCA leaders to sell poppies to support veterans and their families after WW1 and the poppy in the lapel has now become synonymous with war memorials. Before In Flanders fields, the poppy was associated in western literature with sleep and death (remember ‘The Deadly Poppy Field’ chapter of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz?). The poppy in question here is p. somniferum, more commonly known as the opium poppy.

Growing poppies

The poppy you are most likely to see growing in Australia is the Iceland poppy (p. nudicaule). Mary Moody (The Gardener’s Companion) recommends you sow the seed in late summer to flower in late winter and spring. The tip to promote long flowering from the ABC’s gardening website is to swap from a high nitrogen liquid fertiliser to a high potassium fertiliser once the plants are about 10cm across.

The opium poppy is the source of poppy seeds and poppyseed oil, as well as opium, but it is only legal to grow it in Australia if you have a licence. Having said that, the opium poppy produces loads of seeds and the poppy is a pretty robust flower, so there’s a good chance there is a poppy or two growing in a garden near you. To identify an opium poppy: it will have bluish-greenish-greyish leaves and stems and white, mauve or red flowers. There are a lot of commercial poppy farms in Tasmania, which is one of the world’s main producers of poppies for medicinal purposes.

The Flanders Poppy is considered a weed by grain farmers in Europe but it’s not listed as a noxious weed in Australia, so if you fancy planting your own poppy field, go for it.

Speaking of war and remembrance…

Read Robert Nelson’s Remembrance Day article in The Age in which he asks why we don’t remember the bravery of those who refused to fight in WW1.

And if you’re in Castlemaine, check out Ben Laycock’s Hero 1 and Hero 2 at Lot 19: ‘Lest we forget’

Gardening at night

…is a segment of Dancing About Architecture broadcast on 94.9MAINfm Thursday 7-8pm and repeated Sunday 9-10am


The Gardener’s Companion by Mary Moody, New Holland Publishers 2001