I was about two years old and loved the fragrance of flowers. I still do.
I was about two years old and loved the fragrance of flowers. I still do.
Gardens and art are inseparable partners supporting and enlivening each other.
There’s magic in both.
And in some of the community gardens I have visited, artists have done great work creating masterpieces that bring people in, surround them with beauty and offer them the opportunity to connect with one another and with nature.
Community engagement is what community gardens are all about, right?
I have often said you don’t need to be a gardener to enjoy the gardens. There’s so much more than vegetables and flowers growing and being nourished.
The creative expression can be playful like a maze to wander or a half-wrecked boat to pretend to be the captain of the seas. It can be a shelter of branches that provide a shady tunnel to explore or a sunflower house big enough for children’s programming.
I have seen sprinklers in the shape of great trees, concrete snake seating made of sandbags and painted with happy colors, and welcoming hide-aways such as bean pole tipis.
Art can be functional and beautiful like this entrance gate to the Peralta Community Garden in Berkeley, California. At some gardens, the entrance gates are sculpted metal flowers and vines. I have seen fences and arches made of garden tools, tile sundials and mosaics depicting hawks, flowers and insects.
I have lots to share from my travels and I’m hoping you’ll share too.
If your community garden has art incorporated into the landscape, please send me a photo. I’d like to start a regular feature showing this creative side of community gardens around the world.
Thank you. Natalie
Here are three highlights of my recent adventures in California visiting community gardens from Sacramento to the Bay area:
Sacramento: There are waiting lists four and five years long to get into some of the gardens and if you visit, you’ll see why. The pride and care that goes into the city’s Parks and Recreation community gardens is evident in the upkeep, the design and the spirited innovation.
There are fruit trees growing, individual gardener plots, even a small vineyard (It is California after all!) and artful ways of conserving water and engaging gardeners. For example, a sculpted cistern shaped like a ladybug collects water from giant metal flower basins. This is just one of many artful touches.
Santa Rosa: A bilingual garden at the Bayer Community Farm with signage in Spanish and English. This is a welcoming space with garden plots, a large area with a dozen colorful picnic tables, a labyrinth and a teepee trellis house for children. The garden space accommodates young and older with raised beds designed for people with disabilities. One of the nicest aspects of the garden is that it is adjacent to a recreational space that was buzzing with activity as neighbors played sports, skated and rode bikes.
San Francisco: In most gardens your attention is drawn down to ground level where the vegetables, flowers and herbs grow. In Portero Hill Community Garden, located at the edge of a ridge, your eyes look up and out to see a breathtaking city scape. Perched on land that was once the abode of the goat lady of San Francisco, this is a striking garden and so well tended. The gardeners here love their spaces and it shows.
More to come….
BTW- Sacramento is agricultural zone 9. They plant tomatoes in March!
It was wonderful to see some of you at the Cafe Lena concert at Pitney Meadows Community Gardens this afternoon.
Community Gardeners: What a treat to have live music while you work in your gardens, refreshments available and the fun of watching young children enjoy themselves in the sandbox.
This is the good life.
In recent years, more and more schools are planting orchards and creating outdoor classrooms. Pictured above is music teacher Albie Pickens who started a community orchard at his elementary school in Saratoga Springs, NY. Photo: Natalie Walsh
By Natalie Walsh
Albie Pickens, a fifth grade teacher music teacher at Geyser Road School in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., planted an apple and pear orchard with grant and community funding and created an outdoor classroom available to the entire elementary school.
His goal was to connect students with the natural world, a connection that was fostered in him as a child growing up in his father’s garden and that has stayed with him as an adult.
It’s important for students to understand where their food comes from, how much effort goes into a good crop, and the myriad things that can go wrong, he said.
From the beginning three years ago, his local and school community embraced the idea and funded the trees, picnic tables, mulch, deer fencing and other supplies that made it possible.
And if they didn’t give money, they gave of themselves. “We saved $8,000 by having volunteer labor,” Pickens said, adding that at least 200 people volunteered.
As a classroom, the orchard is one educational opportunity after another, Pickens said noting that he is a self-taught orchardist.
Students learn about insect pests, organic controls, grafting, pruning, harvesting and that growing food may not be simple but it is gratifying.
“It doesn’t have to be perfect to be a learning opportunity,” he said, adding that sometimes more is learned when things don’t go right. You can solve one problem only to have another show up.
It’s real life, he continued. Students learn what is takes to grow fruit, the damage insects can cause, the joy of eating a apple off the tree and connect with their world in the process.
And the orchard has been fruitful. At the Orchard Fest held in the fall, cider pressed from their apples is served.
To maintain the orchard of 20 trees, Pickens has organized an Orchard Team of teachers who are able to use the orchard in their curriculum and a Grow Club before school program for students.
He does most of the maintenance himself. “You can’t give a third grader a sharp clippers.”
Instead, he teaches why fruit trees need pruning, and hands out an illustration of an unpruned fruit tree. Students mark which branches they believe should be eliminated. Adults do the pruning.
In the future, he hopes to bring an arborist to the school who can hold a workshop so more people can learn about pruning fruit trees and help in the orchard.
His students have learned about different fruit varieties, grafting and root stocks and Pickens has some fresh grafted pear trees in a nursery for future planting.
“We have plenty of space,” he said, adding “The community orchard will only get better with time.”
Natalie Walsh, a board member of the American Community Gardening Association, is a master gardener and horticulturist who travels across North America writing articles about community gardening and orchards. You can reach her at email@example.com
My husband teases that if there’s a community garden anywhere in the country, I’ll find it.
I can’t deny that it certainly seems that way but I think Community Gardens find me!
Yesterday morning, we brought our bikes to the Lake Worth, Florida and rode in a beachside historic district known for its very sweet and petite cottages. The entire neighborhood is one charming little house after another, some with pretty gardens, picket fences or sculptural banyan trees.
While we were exploring, I spotted a community garden buzzing with activity. It’s planting time in zone 10 and the gardeners and helpers were busy in this revitalized garden located across the street from a school.
Lori Vincent, Managing Director of Aurora’s Voice, which provides opportunities for underserved youth, is lending support to the project which they hope will provide job training, business experience and give students hands-on gardening time to grow nourishing food.
Vincent, who has gotten other community gardens off the ground, said there is a real need in this community where 85% of public school students live below the poverty line.
Of course I shared information with them about the online resources for starting and organizing community gardens at the American Community Gardening Association website.
The new school garden is looking for volunteers and supporters. Jason Clements, head gardener, has many good ideas and if anyone in the area wants to lend their support, this would be a great place to be hands on.
You can get in touch with the garden organizers by emailing: Lori@aurorasvoice.org
This is my idea of fun.
Patrick Doughtery, a carpenter and sculpture, is creating a huge stick sculpture at the Mounts Botanical Garden in Palm Beach County, Florida from truckloads of saplings.
Dougherty, who is based in North Carolina, has created his Stickwork projects in Scotland, Japan, Brussels and all over the United States, including Cincinnati’s Taft Museum of Art.
I’m looking at this and thinking…Hmm. Can we scale this down and make a sapling sculpture in a community garden? What would you create?
A tunnel for hanging gourds? A playhouse? A secret room?
Has anyone made one? If so, let me know about it please! And send pictures!