You must head over to Ping Magazine and take a look at this photo-essay on Guerilla Greening in Tokyo. With only 4% of the city allocated for green space and no yards to speak of, residents have found unique ways to garden and green public spaces. What an inspiration!
I found the part about three-tiered bleacher-like stands notable as just the other day I walked past and contemplated bringing home the very same that someone had put out on the curb for garbage day. It struck me as perfect for my roof garden but was made of dense wood, far too heavy for me to carry the long walk home with bags of stuff slung over my shoulders. I’ve got it in my head now to make one this spring.
Beyond the creative ways people are beautifying public space, I was also very taken by this quote about the lack of vandalism in Tokyo and peoples’ attitude towards public gardens as something to be respected.
“One possible reason might be what ethnographies describe as the respect Japanese have for public and private space. To generalize a bit: Everyone plays a part in keeping spaces nice, tidy and orderly for everyone else in Ã¢â‚¬Ëœthe group.Ã¢â‚¬â„¢ This possibly also explains all those times we see strangers picking up other peopleÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s rubbish in the streets. As such, (hopefully every) Japanese person would not think of littering or destroying a tiny flowerpot garden since, as a part of a shared common space, it is to be respected.”
Oh how I long for a public attitude of respect and mutual responsibility in my own neighbourhood. I was fascinated by the idea of seeing and experiencing the massive metropolis that is Tokyo in my early 20′s but have lost interest over the years. However, the sight of so much creative greening amidst an intense urban environment is very intriguing.
Thanks to Leela for the link.
I watched “Everything’s Cool” yesterday afternoon, hot on the heels of the UN conference on climate change held in Bali last week where my country was globally humiliated ONCE AGAIN by our Prime Minister’s refusal to support a new climate change agreement — an action supported by the rest of the planet, excluding our neighbours to the south. As 2007 comes to a close it is hard to believe that any nation would continue to deny that global warming needs to be addressed seriously let alone deny that it exists at all. It is this massive example of it-ain’t-real-until-I-say-it-is psychology that is at the heart of what the film makers attempt to expose and challenge in this documentary.
The movie begins in 2004 as the filmmakers cross America in a giant biodiesel-powered public service announcement delivery system talking to Americans about their views on climate change and conducting talking-heads-style interviews with well-known global warming “messengers” like Ross Gelbspan, one of the first investigative journalists to take the topic on, and Bill McKibben, acclaimed environmental writer and the author of several books including “The End of Nature” (in addition to my personal favourite, “The Age of Missing Information“).
The film goes on to address the controversy surrounding global warming and trace the roots of this controversy laying blame in the politicization of what is essentially a scientific matter, positioning global warming as a postulated theory rather than fact. The filmmakers explain that it is the uncertainty created by this never-ending “debate” that feeds indifference and inaction.
I am not a journalist with a need to present an unbiased opinion so I can say here that I believe global warming exists. I believe it is not a theory but a reality. My beliefs are based on the information I have read and on my own experiences as a human who has lived in this area long enough to see the changes that have occurred and as a gardener who experiences the climate and the seasons with all of my senses. Unfortunately as a believer this film felt a bit too simplistic and out-of-date, however I will say that I don’t think I am the intended audience. I don’t think it was made to convince the already convinced or speak to the choir but was instead meant to tip fence sitters over from the “wondering” side to the “believing” side. Because once we’re all on the same side of the fence we can actually start to get some shit done.
I took this photo of a field of Gaillardia growing on a hillside on the Leslie Spit back in July before The Worst Drought in Fifty Years took a hold and sent lots of plants into hiatus on a short term or permanent basis. On a return visit in late August I found only a few blanket flowers blooming and many of the plants looking half baked. Gaillardia are an excellent drought tolerant flower but even the heavy hitters have their limit.
We went back to this spot yesterday afternoon on what is reported to be the warmest Canadian Thanksgiving on record reaching over 30 degrees C here in Toronto. In fact we’ve had an amazing Fall overall with plenty of sunshine, warm temperatures, and enough rain to bring our gardens out of the late summer’s drought-induced coma. Evidence of this turnaround is everywhere. The Gaillardia, among other flowers at The Leslie Street Spit have made a turnaround with a second coming of colourful blooms and lots of fresh new growth.
I’ve still got basil and other tender plants in-ground and producing new growth in both my community garden plot and out on the roof. Amazingly, I haven’t even brought my citrus trees indoors to overwinter and they are both still producing tiny fruit.
While I am enjoying a delay in putting my summer gear away I have to admit that I do find the warm temperatures a little bit disturbing since it is a continuation of a trend we saw last year with winter staying mild and rather un-winter-like until well into January. From another vantage point I am fascinated by the way the plants are adapting (or not) to a warmer Fall — instead of going dormant as many of them would at this time of year, plenty of plants just keep keeping on. And some, like the tomatoes and curcubits have either prematurely succumbed to poor conditions early on or are experiencing a second wind after a short break. The sole surviving zucchini plant living in a pot on my rooftop deck has started making flowers again. I have never had a zucchini plant shut down for a while and then come back with a brand new set of leaves and another harvest! As bad as this warm weather may be for the long term, I am learning a lot from really getting first-hand experience of how an extended growing season works in warmer climates. While I have done my homework and know what to expect and I have even experienced second harvests from some early-producing plants in the past, this whole experience is quite different and has been really educational.
This shifting nature of… well… nature is one of those things that makes gardening so interesting and challenging — no matter how much you know you can never know everything. And just when you think you’ve working things out and have got the perfect system in place, nature throws in a curveball or two. Gardening from year-to-year is never, ever the same. As intimidating as that can be, knowing perfection is unattainable is also very freeing and the unpredictability is certainly never boring.
In a recent New York Magazine feature entitled “My Empire of Dirt“, writer Manny Howard takes on the arduous task of growing a farm, complete with flora and fauna in his Brooklyn backyard to explore just what is involved in trying to feed himself locally for one month. The results are a humorous and slightly demoralizing mixed bag of mishaps, small rewards, freakish weather, and rabbit and chicken cannibalism which certainly makes for an interesting and sometimes horrifying read.
“Eating local is expensive and time-consuming, which is why this consumerist movement will not easily trickle down into mass society. It requires a willful abstinence from convenience and plenty, a core promise of the modern world. Our bountiful era is predicated on the division of labor: We donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t sew our own clothes, we donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t build our own housesÃ¢â‚¬â€and we certainly donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t farmÃ¢â‚¬â€because weÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re too busy doing whatever it is we do for everyone else.”
The ensuing drama and general naivetÃƒÂ© of the author would have left me rolling my eyes skeptically (it seems like every paper and magazine has a writer on board trying out these kinds of food-related ‘experiments’ lately) if he had not captured my heart just a little with his stubborn determination. In the end, the intensity of the experience left both he and his family with a hard won lesson in the value of good food and resolve to buy responsibly.
“It wasnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t just a matter of buying regionally, or seasonally, or organicallyÃ¢â‚¬â€the important thing was to consume responsibly.”
I somehow doubt he will keep The Farm up at its current pace but I wonder if he will continue with the garden.
I walked outside the other day, into the street garden with scissors in hand to clip some flowers intended for the host of a party I was attending. As I bent over to snip a few Black-eyed Susan stems I discovered that the flowers were completely gone. All that remained were the ragged ends of about a dozen torn stems. And so Operation Garden Terrorism continues. Sigh.
It turns out that despite the damage and attacks that have occurred this spring and summer, I’ve had it kind of easy. At least I have not found the entire garden gone as Scarborough homeowner Deborah Dale did when she returned home last week to discover that her entire front garden, filled with native plants, had been mowed down by City of Toronto bylaw enforcement officers! To make matters worse, Ms. Dale, a former president of the North American Native Plant Society, will have to pay for the “removal” of her 10 year old garden from out of her own pocket.
Image Source: Treehugger
Several other sites have already written about this event, and while I don’t have much to add to an already thoroughly explored discussion the thought that goes through my mind when thinking about this incident is the question of how we define a garden. The City of Toronto publicly promotes growing native plant gardens for environmental reasons but is seemingly confused about how to support the efforts of gardeners who break the mold of what a garden is supposed to look like — support that is especially needed in suburban areas where the lawn still reigns supreme. Ms. Duncan’s garden was leveled based on the complaints of her neighbors and was told that her native plant garden would have been protected had she applied to have her garden officially designated a “natural garden.” On the one hand it is good that at least The City is trying to address this idea of what a garden can be by providing a provision that has the potential to protect unorthodox gardens. Yet at the same time it seems slightly absurd and a little bit bonkers that a gardener would have to assume that their garden required protection from the biases of their neighbors in the first place and then have both the presence of mind and knowledge of the system to apply for that kind of protection in the first place.
Fundamentally how we define a garden and how we conceptualize a “carefully tended” garden comes down to our own subjective biases. And for better or for worse those biases are about as diverse as gardeners and their gardens.
To add insult to injury it The City is reportedly set to go after Ms. Dale’s backyard woodland garden next.
More Reports on This Incident: