A bar manager who calls himself the Cloud Gardener has turned the balcony of his 18th floor Deansgate apartment into a horticultural haven.
Jason Williams, who is originally from London, started his ‘Cloud Garden’ in lockdown last year with just one or two plants but by the summer his garden had blossomed into a bounty of vegetables and even has its own pond.
Tending such a garden has kept Jason busy, but finding his green fingers has also helped him tackle his mental health issues.
“I deal with anxiety and depression and gardening really helps me to create a routine,” he told The Manc.
“I just found that being with nature really balances me.”
Laying the groundwork wasn’t easy, however. ‘Cloud Gardening’ is an entirely different ball game to gardening at ground level.
At 18 storeys high, the Cloud Garden has its own climate, with temperatures around 15 degrees higher than on ground level. This means the cloud garden has its own seasons so traditional rules on when to plant seedlings do not apply.
Not only does the Cloud Garden have a different climate, there aren’t any insects up there, either – so Jason has had to create his own ecosystem by introducing lace-wing larvae to pollinate his plants.
When Jason first started he struggled to find any advice on balcony gardening, which he learned has completely different rules to traditional horticulture.
He said: “I had to come to terms with the fact that my growing space is completely different and so it requires a completely different mindset.”
In 2021, Jason learned as he went and decided to share his newfound wisdom by setting up a Cloud Gardener YouTube channel.
Not only does Cloud Gardener UK share gardening tips, it also posts vlogs with open, honest conversations about mental health in the hope of normalising these discussions.
“Living in Deansgate I have such an amazing view and I see so many balconies that are just not used,” he stated.
Jason’s Cloud Garden has attracted attention from all over the world. And it’s proved to be an inspiration.
One American couple had given up on gardening because their plants kept getting attacked by pests, but decided to give landscaping at high levels a go after discovering Jason’s channel.
They said it ‘brought joy back into their lives’.
More content is appearing on the channel all the time.
Not only does Jason promote the benefits of gardening for improving mental health, he is also invested in the local community – creating a garden in the bar he manages, the Sale Slug and Lettuce.
Local residents donate plants to the garden and on every third Sunday of the month Jason organises a plant and seed swap at the bar, where gardeners can meet up and share their expertise.
The event has been a roaring success and for the next event Jason has booked out half of his beer garden to accommodate all of the guests.
“I started my YouTube channel this year just to show people what can be achieved in such a small urban environment,” he stated.
“It’s my dream that through Cloud Gardener UK I can help others to not suffer in silence and give them the strength to open up.”
Guardian critic Grace Dent raves about ‘pointedly bonkers’ Manchester restaurant Musu
The food critic Grace Dent has published a rave review of one of Manchester’s new restaurant openings, Musu, bestowing national kudos on the Bridge Street eatery.
Referred to by the Guardian reviewer as ‘very possibly the most expensive restaurant in Manchester’, in a glowing write up she compares it to ‘the Starship Enterprise, albeit one with geishas on the walls and a £110 seven-course menu’.
Already a favourite of Ilkay Gundogan’s notoriously hard-to-please wife (it’s the only eatery she’s praised since famously saying that the Manchester food and drink scene was ‘horrible’), thankfully, Musu has now found a more discerning reviewer to recommend it.
Dent opens by advising ‘all who have already taken terrible umbrage that Musu even exists’ to ‘abandon reading this review here’, before going on to say she, personally, is ‘rather cheered that there are still people north of Watford who have the faith and gumption to open places as pointedly bonkers as this.’
The 55-cover restaurant is described as being ‘as dark in places as Adrian Mole’s bedroom’, with plenty of attention paid to its ‘theatrical’ detailing.
A glass-fronted private dining room that, ‘at the touch of a button, turns frosted’, gets a special mention, as does Musu’s bold ‘Japanese murals, globe lighting and […] nakedly open kitchen’.
But the real praise is reserved for the cooking of chef Michael Shaw, formerly of Gordon Ramsay Inc and Raymond Blanc’s Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons, hailed as ‘minuscule portions of exquisite pleasure that linger in your mind.’
As she reels through the seven-course tasting menu, praising each dish as she goes, things go from great to excellent.
At one point, after digging into Musu’s sashimi (described as ‘ three of the finest pieces of sashimi imaginable’) she proffers: ‘I felt like handing my badge back there and then – it’s over; I won’t ever taste better’, before moving on to another ‘outstanding’ dish.
If there is a criticism, it’s that upon finishing the seven courses she still finds herself hungry – commenting: ‘Very rarely – in fact, never – do I wish I’d chosen the longer tasting menu, though at £150 plus drinks, that would have been guaranteed to cause a reader revolt.’
This, in turn, leads to some good-natured musing on just who all these people are spending hundreds in ‘mobbed’ Musu on a Friday night, with Dent asking pointedly: ‘Where are they getting their money? None of them seemed to be the type to have Brink’s-Mat gold buried at the bottom of their garden.’
Summarising, she writes: “If you’ve already decided to boycott Musu over the sheer cost, the din and the small portions, I must at this point stress that the food is outstanding.
“Sure, Musu isn’t for everybody, but if someone else is funding your wanton extravagance, then drag them there. It’s unforgettable for many reasons: some of them are hilarious, yes, but mostly they’re just plain good.”
Read more:The best restaurants and bars to open in Manchester in 2022
Feature image – The Manc Eats
Manchester brewery Squawk is opening a bar in the Northern Quarter
Manchester brewery Squawk is opening a new bar in the Northern Quarter this week, taking over the former Beatnikz taproom site.
Called Pelican, it is the first bricks-and-mortar site for the indie brewery favourite which first launched in Manchester ten years ago.
Until now, the brewery’s humble home has been located in an old railway arch in Ardwick and, for the first few years, it was just owner Ollie and his dog Bernie running the ship.
Over the years, though, it has grown into one of Manchester’s best-loved breweries – with Ollie slowly taking on new recruits along the way.
Now, as of this Friday, fans of Squawk’s locally-brewed beers will be able to head down to Dale Street for a taste of its famous fruity IPAs, light lagers and punchy sours.
The new bar will sit next door to Idle Hands cafe and take over the former home of Beatnikz Republic taproom, which sadly closed its doors in April last year.
With 14 keg and 4 cask lines in total, there’s plenty to tempt craft beer and ale fans with lots of room to host Squawk’s own beers alongside a wide variety of rotating guest selections.
As for those who aren’t into craft beer, there’s more on offer too with a beautifully-curated selection of wine and spirits to choose from as well as a mean hangover-curing Bloody Mary.
The bar will also host live music and a number of fringe events, with DJs spinning beats throughout the opening weekend and going forward.
Punters can also expect film nights, karaoke hosted by Andy Baukham of Wizard King fame, foodie offerings, games nights and Crafternoons for all and sundry to enjoy at Pelican when it opens its doors this Friday 31 March.