Once again I am trying to catch up on the garden visits I have made over the last three months. La Plaza Cultural is a community garden in New York City’s Alphabet City neighborhood (9th and Avenue C) that I have visited twice but only from the outside. But what a fantastic outside it is. The garden spans a large corner block and the fence along both sides is covered along the top with beautiful junk flowers artfully fashioned from tin cans, detergent bottles, beer caps, and just about any indestructable junk imaginable. Like other gardens in the area it was built up from the rubble and debris of abandoned tenements and trash and nurtured into a community space that has thrived since the late 70s.
This is the entrance on 9th Ave. The text on the wall reads, “The Struggle Continues” in spanish and english.
Someone in the area has been making and installing homemade birdhouses utilizing more junk materials. I found a few scattered around the neighbourhood. Surprising little discoveries like these are one of the aspects of city-living that I cherish most.
Someone altered the text on this sign. It’s too bad that there are class issues arising around the garden although I would bet most of those problems are tied to the swiftly changing face of the neighborhood rather than the garden itself.
This is a little of what I saw only a week ago in Portland. I’ve got to get on developing my film so I can coast on images of actual living things through these last foul weeks/months of winter. Click on the images to see them larger.
Lush, green carpets of fresh moss covering every static surface. The moss shown here is on the side of a tree trunk. I touched and rubbed a lot of trees. I’m guessing the locals are used to that.
I fell in love with these gorgeous pathways at the Chinese Garden. The garden features several, completely unique pathways meticulously crafted from tiny river rocks. Let’s face it, I am never going to have the money or time and patience to devote to something like this but it’s inspirational none-the-less.
Plum trees were blooming at the garden. I devoted a lot of time and film to soaking these beauties in knowing it would be months before I’d see such colours again in the outside world.
I recently returned from a short trip to New York City. This was a purely personal trip so despite the cold I did what I love best, wandering the streets with my camera. My favourite part of the city is The Lower East Side, The East Village, and Alphabet City areas. This upper part of this area also happens to be the birthplace of the modern community and guerilla gardening here in North America. There are several imaginative and beautiful gardens scattered amongst the buildings that were born in the late 70′s and early 80′s out of the community’s desire to turn dangerous, abandoned waste spaces into safe and useful community spaces for the neighborhood. While locals and organizers have had to arduously fight against rising real estate value and gentrification to keep the gardens alive, a few have been granted park status by the city and remain in place. If you ever get a chance to visit New York I highly recommend getting a peek at some of the gardens. You can use this searchable map to locate and map out all of the gardens in the area.
This is the 6th and Ave B Garden [Note: This photo was taken in May 2005], a massive garden that takes up the entire corner of a city block. The garden’s website chronicles its history and shows what the block looked like when it was just a pile of rubble and debris.
Eddie’s Sculpture at the 6th and B Garden. This sculpture has created a lot of controversy. I was surprised to see it was still there just a few days ago.
Unfortunately, the gardens were all closed for the winter but I still managed to take a few pictures by poking my lens through fences.
I was also fortunate enough to visit many of these gardens as a part of my book launch back in May 2005. You can see more pictures from that trip here.
As promised, here are a few images from my Feb 2006 trip to the Japanese Garden in Portland Oregon. I defy you to feel Holiday angst while browsing these images. I may need to print one out wall-sized and hang it directly behind my computer.
I’m sorry I waited so many months to say something about my visit to this wonderful garden because my feeling for the place isn’t up at the surface. However orderly, misty, and calm comes to mind. I enjoy visiting a garden like this in part because the contrast between my own gardening practice and a garden like this is so extreme and direct. I can’t help but be in awe of such constrained tidiness. It is not the kind of constraint that makes the muscles in a certain rear area tense up, but the kind of restraint that freaks you out with its intelligence and sense of purpose. There’s a feeling that places like this carry that make me hyper-aware of my behaviour.
Stay calm. Be quiet. Walk slowly. Don’t break anything. Good thing I am showered and wearing clean underwear.
I wanted to run around and express my excitment as I usually do when I’m surrounded by new plants and landscapes, making me feel like a keyed up kid in church who’s got to stay quiet for a whole fifty-nine more minutes. And despite the twitchiness and the certainty I would stumble on a smooth rock and knock over a 300 year old bonsai, I was surprised that despite our frenzied tourist rush I did become calm, and filled with The Deep Thoughts.
I am amazed by this staking technique.
Moss and lichens everywhere. It’s adds another level of interest to leafless trees.
The Sand and Stone Garden
I took this one while resting on a bench inside a pagoda. Sitting here made me wish we had a garden like this in Toronto that I could visit and sit in quietly for hours on end. Alas we had things to see and places to go which is kind of contrary to the contemplativeness of the Japanese Garden.
I love the sleek stones against the mossy green ground.
I tried to be quiet but this camera shutter lands with a deep “thud.” I think I may have upset this vistitor’s solitude. Sorry dude.
I’m currently in Northern California for the Blogher Conference. I’ve been to these parts once before but the massiveness of the plants, most especially the invasives really stand out this time.
I assumed this patch of renegade nasturtiums was a random fluke. Until I turned the corner. And the next one. And the next. And then I saw the hillside covered in nasturtium flowers of every colour with leaves the size of dinner plates. No one warned me that here in California nasturtiums will have you for breakfast.
This is what happens when radishes roam free — all plant no radish. At least the flowers are tasty.
I will admit that I did notice the fennel last time. It’s hard not to since the stuff is everywhere! First I came upon this fennel forest and then I noticed….
…BLACKBERRIES! I proceeded to gorge myself on the ripest of which there were many. And by many I mean enough to keep the multitudes bloated on blackberry pie. There have been past discussions on the forums describing the impenetrable invasiveness of blackberries in the North West. I want you all to know that I get it now. For real.
You have to see how jade grows in Southern Ontario to understand why this scene is such a marvel. Our sad little plants live in sad little pots on window ledges where they remain sad, and little for decades.
I have to admit that it was a 1997 trip to San Francisco that first inched geraniums off of my hit list. Until that point I was only familar with the pathetic little annuals peddled through school fundraisers and shotgun planted into every maple leaf motifed public garden across Ontario. These twisty, tangled sculptures are a whole lot more interesting.
The first thing I would do with a garden in this climate is grow a HUGE rosemary bush. Even the snails that eat the rosemary bushes are cool.
Aeoniums rate high on my list of favourite succulents so to find one this beautiful and in bloom no-less was a huge thrill.