Volunteers are needed to pot up 21,000 Crocus Sativus corms in the centre of Croydon next week to ensure an autumn harvest of their precious saffron crop – which is worth its weight in gold, and then some.
Last month, gardening enthusiast Ally McKinley staged a successful crowd-funding exercise, raising more than £4,000 in less than a week to pay for the corms – they are most definitely not “bulbs” – and the soil and other materials for a project which aims to scatter a little bit of saffron colour, and wealth, all around Croydon. The council has given McKinley permission to utilise the Taberner House site for the duration of the project, which will be completed before building works start early next year.
The site of the former Croydon Council offices will be home to a pop-up saffron farm for the remainder of the year.
Croydon takes its name from the Anglo-Saxon “Croh Denu”, meaning “crocus valley”, and the project is calling on that ancient heritage to revive a precious crop which is thought to have first brought the Romans to the area.
Now the scheme needs volunteers. “The Big Pot Up” is planned for Saturday September 19. All are welcome in Queen’s Gardens from 10am-5pm, where 10 tons of earth, 21,000 crocus corms and a similar number of plant pots will await anyone willing to help build Croydon Saffron Central.
The donations have paid for the corms, earth, gravel and scaffold boards. “We just need to find an efficient way of putting them all together now!” McKinlay said.
“This is a great opportunity to raise an awareness of how Croydon got its name for communities in all parts of the borough. The idea is that people from community gardens, groups and schools come and help recreate the Crocus Valley in Queen’s Gardens by potting corms which will then be placed in the Taberner House site to bask in the sunshine.
“After the saffron has been harvested they can take the plants back into their respective wards and develop their own local Saffron Farms.”
There will be a small groundwork team on site this Saturday, but “The Big Pot Up” takes place the following week, “and all are welcome”, McKinley said.
The Croydon Women’s Institute, known as the “Croydon Crocuses”, has offered to supply some refreshments including cake, while the 2nd Selsdon and Addington Scout group will erect a marquee to provide shelter and shade.
“It’s short notice but the Crocus Sativus corm waits for no town and we need to get them in some earth as soon as possible,” McKinley said.
“This should be an excellent day for all the family to get involved in and will help mark the end of a historic era for the civic site of more than 50 years.”
There is an option to create some artwork on the hoardings which will accompany a viewing area so people can see the flowers bloom, which is expected in late October or early November.
“Ideally people will bring some gloves and hand tools but the planting can all be done by hand if people are happy to muck in. Some shovels, wheelbarrows and brooms would also be useful, but the most important thing is the community enjoy the day,” McKinley said.
- Volunteers and those wishing to contribute can contact Ally McKinlay on Twitter @BadgerJellyfish or the Facebook event page Croydon Saffron Central, which people are welcome to share and invite others
- Inside Croydon Events: for dates and links to what’s happening in and around Croydon, updated daily, click here
Inside Croydon: Named among best regional media campaigns, 2014.
- Croydon’s only independent news source, based in the heart of the borough: 729,297 page views in 2014.
- If you have a news story about life in or around Croydon, a residents’ or business association or local event, please email us with full details at firstname.lastname@example.org