The Eden Project in Cornwall, nestled in what used to be an empty barren clay pit, but remade into a lush green, curiously surreal paradise. The clay pit was nothing unusual as I learned that Cornwall was the world's largest producer of clay and was referred to as "Clay Country".
"Gardens of Heligan" founderTim Smit and architect Jonathan Ball saw this empty pit and envisioned this amazing architectural feat. Essentially there are two biomes; one a biome for mediaterranean flora and the other biome for tropical flora.
Volunteering at the Eden Project was very much like joining horticultural bootcamp (but really most garden work is isn't it?) because there was a lot of work to do. I personally planted 200 Eschscholzia californica (commonly called California Poppies) in one morning (not easy when on an interplanted hillside and you can't step on anything). Shoveled and wheelbarreled 20 loads of wet mulch for the potager garden installation the rest of that day. Thank goodness for my fellow volunteer "John as Strong as an Ox" who really did the heavy lifting with the mulching.
The Tropical Biome was endlessly interesting and was an amazing experience. I fell in love with the Malaysian Roul Roul partridges that shyly walked adorable pairs around me as I cleaned and weeded. Watering the rainforest in the mornings felt like meditation. I loved that they were in the midst of creating a Polynesian navigation exhibit explaining how precious fruits and plants were chosen and taken to start up a life on new lands the Polynesians discovered.
Key Education at the Eden Project:
But most importantly, there are brilliant critical studies and experiments that are supported and explained in the Tropical Biome. I was so fortunate to be able to meet Mike Hands who is the founder and director of the Inga Foundation and learn about "Inga Alley Cropping". This foundation is all about teaching and supporting the farmers in tropical rainforests how to revitalize their soil in order to keep planting on their current lands instead of abandoning, slashing and clearing another patch of rainforest to farm in.
The Oil Palm Exhibit and current study the Eden Project is involved in an experiment to help restore the biodiversity amongst the fields and fields of a singular palm tree, Elaeis guineensis, in Borneo. By interplanting Alpenium nidus in the palms themselves, they are observing how biodiversity could be improved. Bottom line - let's stop buying Palm oil products - it's clearing the rainforests! ( I personally had no clue).
But it's always the people that make an experience and it was a pleasure to meet and work alongside this wondering crew - all involved enthusiastically in teaching the visitors how vital our relationship with plants are.
for more information:
Inga Alley Cropping - http://www.ingafoundation.org/alley-cropping/
Eden Project Oil Palm Exhibit - http://www.edenproject.com/visit/whats-here/rainforest-biome/oil-palm-exhibit
Eden Project Current Oil Palm Study - https://www.edenproject.com/media/2017/01/common-houseplant-could-hold-key-to-restoring-life-oil-palm-plantations