My friend and fellow plant/collecting enthusiast Uli Havermann (you may remember her from this incredible succulent pot, this stunning blue sea holly, and these beautiful urns) is a member of a large community greenhouse here in Toronto. Last week she treated me to a glimpse inside. Like community gardens and allotments, community greenhouses are not all created equal. Each function in their own way to achieve varying goals. Years back I was a member of a small community greenhouse that functioned more like a collective in which each member had a particular job or role and worked to help care for each other’s plants.
The greenhouse I visited last week is much, much, much larger and functions more like an allotment garden in which members pay an annual fee for a large, multi-tiered wooden bench (I don’t recall the dimensions) on which to house their plants. Taking care of other members’ plants is not expected, and I would imagine, discouraged.
Regardless of the model, a greenhouse like this is an invaluable resource for city dwellers who don’t have the space in their own homes to overwinter beloved houseplants and start seedlings. I can also see its benefit as a green refuge to enjoy on days like today when the garden is buried in snow and the temperature is too cold for life. Within just an hour-long(ish) visit I was practically wobbling down the aisles drunk on the scent and sight of plant life. I left feeling reinvigorated and positively giddy about the approaching garden season.
Our off-time on a recent trip to New York City was spent wandering around soaking everything in and taking pictures. I didn’t go out of my way to visit specific gardens or community gardens this time, but naturally found some along the way.
One of the community gardens I came upon was the LaGuardia Corner Gardens located in Greenwich Village between Bleecker and Houston Streets. I have come across this particular garden on past trips and have even taken some photos of it. I had a rough idea of where it was located and was pleasantly surprised when we stumbled upon it on our last day.
I’m not sure what it is about this garden that had me hoping to find it again. Maybe it’s the location, which is particularly interesting as the garden sits smack dab in front of a supermarket with a fence around it.
There are several community gardens in New York City that are a good twenty years in the making. Through the years the landscape and socio-economic standing of the communities that surround them have changed, often times from poor to rich and from rubble to fancy metal and glass contemporary structures. As a result, these gardens and their gardeners always have an interesting story to tell.
The history of LaGuardia Corner Gardens is your typical community garden story beginning with local residents digging a garden on barren, unused land, then fighting to keep the garden alive amidst a changing neighborhood.
While I was taking photos, a woman came up to me and mentioned that a rooster had been spotted poking around in the garden the day before. She didn’t know where he came from or if he was still there. This exchange and information sharing is one of the things I enjoy most about photographing gardens. If you hang around long enough looking like you belong, someone is always bound to come by, eager to reveal the garden’s secrets.
Sure enough, as we made our way around the perimeter we eventually spotted him darting about, stopping now and again to take a bite out of a plant. I wonder if he is still there and how much of the garden remains!
Organic gardener Bob Easter shows off his harvest at the Sunshine Community Garden in Austin, Texas last week. They are already harvesting carrots! Meanwhile, back in Toronto, home of the never-ending winter, we are only dreaming about the carrots we will grow and harvest in a few months. Sigh.