Jeremy Hunt: Myrtle Cottage Renaissance Garden

Sunday, 24th September 2017

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Jeremy Hunt
Jeremy Hunt

Jeremy Hunt is quite the Renaissance Man. It is not surprising that he has chosen to create a beautiful Renaissance Garden in the English style of Gertrude Jekyll in the back and front of Myrtle Cottage on the site of the Old Print Works.

It was officially named The Bee Garden at the opening on Saturday 8 July. It is a lovely community space and is a welcome contribution to the process of greening up the Moseley Road, which started last November with the opening of the Pocket Park on the corner of Hayden Way and the Moseley Road.

Jeremy is something of a bee himself – flying in unexpectedly from fields afar and choosing to settle awhile and build a hive of activity and sweetness.

He is respected worldwide for his lifelong contribution to Art and Architecture which are some of his many passions. Jeremy has lived in London, Paris, Tuscany and South America. Fortunately for us he discovered the delights of Myrtle Cottage, which has been in Balsall Heath since 1790, and decided to share not only the house but also to create a garden for all comers to enjoy.

For this we have to thank not only Jeremy but also the trustees of the Old Print Works – the grounds of which this handsome house stands. Thanks must also go to John Newson, visionary of Balsall Heath Is Our Planet, and to at least thirty willing worker bees who he helped recruit to come help in many little voluntary ways over the past eight months since Jeremy first conceived the idea.

With some help from the National Lottery, thanks to John, Jeremy was able to get the cartloads of soil and some of the plants he needed to fill the freestanding raised beds which he made himself from recycled pallets and other useful bits of timber.

Over the winter Jeremy started a nursery in one of the vacant rooms in the OPW and sowed, nurtured, nourished and re-potted thousands of plants to start attracting bees and butterflies to the bleak paved front courtyard of the cottage. He also salvaged the set of warm terracotta tiles which give the Renaissance feel to the garden in front.

Jeremy is a sociable person and is used to entertaining. His baking skills are legendary – he learned to bake at the age of five at his mother’s knee in Sutton Coldfield.

The opening of the garden was a lovely event. Poetry and soaring song filled the air as well as the lively chatter of cyclists returning from a recce led by John Newson as part of the City Council’s Birmingham Cycling Revolution initiative.

The afternoon started with the official launch of the OPW cycling facilities, which include parking stands back and front and a cycle pump and bike maintenance tower at the rear. The appreciative cheers as Cllr. Tony Kennedy did the opening honours which could be heard above the passing traffic and resounded down the road.

Jeremy loves the deep-rooted natural human diversity of the culture of Balsall Heath and Moseley. He is making noises about the jobs that need doing over the winter. Let’s hope that means he has decided to settle for at least another year and help the garden and its new community to grow ever more attractive and abundant.

There will be another open day towards the end of summer. Meanwhile, just fly in yourself someday and enjoy it any time. You might even be offered a piece of cake.


Photos: Tessa Kate Lowe