August 20, 2010

city gardening

I took a trip to West Philly this past weekend and visited my friend Karena who has an AMAZING garden. She lives in the ground floor apartment of a house and has direct access to the large yard (26'-10"x 32'-0"). It was a bit of a mess when she took it over, but she has transformed it into a beautiful oasis.

This is a before shot:

Here is an aerial view of the garden now:


I asked Karena what her favorite part or element of her garden was and this is her respnose:

My favorite part is that it has all come together through free re-used or re-purposed materials; every landscaped element has come from materials that were already here (bricks and cinder blocks), Craigslist (cedar planter and rock fill under the drip edge behind the rain garden), the curb (tree branches and rocks), or the "trash" (wood palettes and scrap wood for compost bin). In terms of a favorite space in my garden, I love the little patio/ sitting area I've created. It is tucked in the shade for most of the day from the woodland arbor with a grape and trumpet vine canopy, and looks out over the whole yard. The close proximity to my herb garden is special because herbs have been part of my life since childhood (my mother grew lots of herbs), and because they are part of my daily ritual and play a large role in my health (I make my own skin care products from herbs and use teas, tinctures and essential oils for medicinal purposes). I also LOVE how moss is also taking over the ground in between all the tiles I put down - it feels great to walk on barefoot!






Aren't these tree stumps great?! They were also locally found:
The tree stumps came from the intense wind and rain storm that rolled through at the end of June and knocked down a lot of older trees in the neighborhood (and throughout the city). I had been planning to somehow create a raised bed within my herb garden for a few weeks, and wanted something that was dual-purpose (e.g. a planter + a retaining wall). Biking home from work one afternoon I came across a city cleanup crew three blocks from my house. They had already cut a huge tree into sections and were running them through a wood chipper so I stopped and asked if it would be possible to set some of the logs aside for me and I would come back and get them with a car. I put a tarp down in the back of a Philly Carshare Prius and had my boyfriend help me load them into the car and bring them home (they were extremely heavy!). They worked perfectly, and double as seating or plant stands.





Karena has only planted a few things in her garden:
Crocus, daffodils, tulips, striped squill, starflower, alium, lords & ladies, hostas, columbine, astilbe, sweet woodruff, bleeding hearts, toad lily, ferns, lungwort, poppies, irises, solomon's seal, lilacs, morning glory, honesuckle, joe pye weed, culver's root, blackeyed susans, sedums, evening primrose, roses, peonies, strawberries, foxglove, penstemon, bellflower, lilies, phlox, ironweed, goldenrod, spirea, liriope, butterfly weed, daisies, lamb's ear, mint, lavender, bee balm, bergamot, chamomile, lemon thyme, catmint, oregano, echinacea, sage, baby's breath, geraniums, comfrey, chives, basil, parsley, lemon balm, rhubarb, sorrel, snapdragons, zinnias, mandevilla, celosia, cosmos, creeping jenny, coleus, Persian shield, begonias, nasturtium, verbena, rose moss, a japanese maple and a plum tree. However many that is. Plus: lettuces, chard, spinach, radishes, carrots, beets, heirloom tomatoes, beans, hot peppers, squash, cucumbers, watermelon, broccoli, cauliflower, and cabbage. Only the hostas, peonies, roses, liriope, irises, lilacs, morning glory and plum tree were here when we moved in, though I've moved some stuff around to give it a better environment.

The majority of my perennial and herb plants come from Greensgrow Farm in the northeast. They have the largest selection of native plants that I've been able to find in the city, and their plants are better quality than those I've seen at other nurseries throughout the area. I start all my vegetables from seed, and I primarily get seeds from mail order (Johnny Scheeper's), Mariposa Coop (Seed Saver's Exchange), and Whole Foods (Botanical Interests). My annuals come from Hillside Nursery since they generally have the best prices and they also carry Neptune's Harvest organic fish emulsion fertilizer, large bags of soil amendments, and a variety of mulch - all things I typically acquire at the beginning of summer. Other plants have come from my mom when she comes to visit, or from neighbors.

Wow. I haven't been able to keep a houseplant alive for more than a couple of months, so I can't even imagine being able to create something like this. I'm so impressed! Thanks Karena for allowing me to share your incredible garden!

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