The One Where I Got My Heart Broken, Again

The street garden has been significantly damaged again, this time by a painter my landlord hired to paint a so-called mural on the wall. He had to have the mural done to save the garden from “graffiti peoples”, he told me in a letter left in my mailbox as a so-called apology. Yet “graffiti peoples” have never done any damage to the garden. They never tag or paint on the wall during the growing season when the plants have come alive. They have only ever tagged the wall during the winter months when the plants are dormant. They have always had respect for the garden. I told him that months ago. Painting the wall was for him only. I hate when people lie about their motives and then call that an apology.

No the only people who have done damage to the garden are random drunks and bar goers looking for somewhere to urinate. Or people who think it’s okay to let their large dogs loose. Or my landlord and the numerous idiots he hires to do work that always results in dead plants.

I tried to write more about this to explain what happened but two days have passed and I am still so flattened by it. I’ve finally hit my limit. My initial response to the damage when I discovered it was first anger and sadness and then the urge to destroy it myself. And then when some time had passed I thought about digging all of it up and selling the plants off to recoup some of the financial loss. Because that’s all land and space means to people. Ownership. Property. Financial gain. I didn’t expect him to understand why I dug that garden, why I have spent countless hours over the years and many dollars buying plants and replacing the ones that have been destroyed. And to be honest I am fairly certain he doesn’t understand the kind of work and commitment that goes into building a garden like that. And if he did, I would never expect him to understand why anyone would go to the trouble with so little obvious gain. I would never have imagined that a time would come when he could understand why I didn’t just do all that but I also took responsibility for the space. I cleaned up the garbage that was tossed there and I cleaned up the dog poo that was left behind by careless dog owners. I didn’t expect him to get why I care about that space so deeply, and I certainly didn’t expect him to respect or even wrap his mind around the larger philosophical and political reasons why I think it is important for us as citizens to feel a sense of entitlement to sharing in a collective responsibility in shaping our cities. That we shouldn’t have to buy our way into that kind of agency. That power, value, and success should not come from ownership.

Sure I didn’t expect any of that but I did expect him to have some respect in the sense that he has benefited from the work I have done. Where there was once a neglected eyesore, a dumping ground for all manner of waste and debris plants live and colour thrives. There is life in a space that was once hopeless and considered dead. And despite the damage that has taken place over the years I know far more people are glad it is there. And you know what, people go into his store and ask him about the garden. He gets to take some personal pride and responsibility for something he has no part in AND his property value goes up. It makes him look good and it makes him money. All I ask for in exchange is that he not destroy it. That he not be involved in destroying it. But he is. And he has been time and time again. It’s hard enough to wrap my head around the kinds of abuses the garden has withstood from total strangers but when it comes from someone who directly and financially benefits from it… I don’t have the ability to understand this.

And then he has the gall to tell me he did this for the sake of the garden. He couldn’t even step up and apologize honestly. That kind of apology is like a kick in the face. It insults my intelligence.

And that is where I have been for the last two days. Flattened. Feeling defeated. Unable to muster up that resilient and stubborn part of me that usually steps up and gets on with it no matter what. I have taken this all very personally. Some may say TOO personally. Some may say I am a whining, bleeding heart socialist who needs to get a grip. Some may say I need to develop a thick skin and buck up. And the thing is I have tried to put some psychological distance between myself and the garden for my own sake but the reality is that I have a deep care for the things I create. And I have learned over time that putting up a self-defensive wall doesn’t really do me any good over the long term. I used to live my life that way in fact. I developed it young and grew it up good and strong until I had a fortress so dense nothing could get in or out. And what I learned through time is that a wall is not really protective at all — it just cuts me off from vital parts of myself.

When a gardener nurtures a garden, they nurture themselves. I know this is a big part of why I have such a strong need to grow things and create. When I take time to create something I turn all of the hurt, loss, and pain I feel inside for having not been nurtured when I should have and I make something of it. The action involved in creating shows me what hope is and gives me a sense of agency that I can turn things around for myself, that I am not destined to hold onto the enormous weight of all of that pain and suffering for the whole of my life. It gives me hope for the state of the world. It gives me a picture of a world where people aren’t valued based on superficial bullshit and where I can play a role in making the world that I dream of. The strongest and most difficult thing we can do in the face of difficulty is open ourselves up to be vulnerable. Rather than hardening ourselves off from the possibility of bringing more pain into our lives, we stare it right in the eye and allow ourselves to keep feeling everything anyways. Really feeling the depth of the hurt and grief of the bad stuff. Opening ourselves up to the good no matter how scary. I can write those words but it is the hardest thing I have ever done and will have to keep doing for the rest of my life if I really want to live and be alive. And if I disconnect myself in ways that seem self-protective then I also end up disconnecting myself from the great benefits and healing I receive from the action of building, making, creating and dreaming.

I think that’s why (or one of the reasons why) I feel so crushed over something that may seem as insignificant as a garden. Because as much as I have tried not to I put my heart into that garden I can’t imagine doing it with only half or a quarter of myself invested. And that’s the kind of world I like to imagine. One where we can all feel safe enough to put our hearts into the things we care about without fear of having it broken. And one where we are all valued and can in turn have a shared sense of entitlement to shaping the world into something we can feel good about. I don’t want to stop dreaming because I am too afraid to be hurt and I especially don’t want to stop because dreaming makes me into something as reviled as one of those ridiculous bleeding heart dreamers.

Gayla Trail
Gayla is a writer, photographer, and former graphic designer with a background in the Fine Arts, cultural criticism, and ecology. She is the author, photographer, and designer of best-selling books on gardening, cooking, and preserving.

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74 thoughts on “The One Where I Got My Heart Broken, Again

  1. I am so sorry about your garden, about the lame excuses and about the hurt.

    But don’t you stop dreaming, girl! Sometimes, these days, it is all we got.

  2. I’m so sorry to hear this Gayla. Right or wrong, I’d have much the same reaction. I’d be inclined to just dig up all the plants (sell them, give them away, whatever), and let him reap the rewards of his actions. Petty? Probably. But his actions are hurting you. I’m not saying do it to hurt him back, but to take yourself out of a position where he can hurt you again.

    And again, that’s my knee-jerk reaction, which isn’t always the most rational or mature, but rather emotional.

  3. Your landlord is an idiot, but YOU are an inspiration. By offering up your profound, honest writing and wonderful pictures, you are cultivating (in a sense) gardens all over the place, including mine… Hang in there, girl!

  4. I’m so sorry about this, I wish there were more people like you doing good in the world just because they want to, and because they care for others.

  5. That is terrible, I am so sorry. You are wonderful, the world needs more people like you, not asshats like your landlord.

  6. Gardens are as much an art form as painting or sculpture or anything else. You learn, create, and grow and you put your heart into them. That is art. They are part of you and you have every right to be angry and upset. Hugs and peace from Atlanta.

  7. I know I’m not alone when I say how much you’ve inspired me to grow a garden of my own. It’s rare that someone is able to instill confidence in another person. When people look at my like I’m crazy because I’ve suddenly decided to dig up a space behind my apartment, plunge my hands into the soil, and water rows of lettuce where there used to only be dogshit, I remember that I’m not alone in doing this. Never before did I think I would be able to have something like this in the city. Now I have three plots in two community gardens and a space in my tiny “backyard”!

    I could go on forever about the changes that have come from all of this but mainly what I want you to know is that you’ve been a huge influence on me. I understand how sad you must feel and what happened is absolutely heartbreaking. However, I hope you’re able to think of all the gardens you’ve nurtured just by updating this website.

    There are beautiful new gardens and bright happy hearts all over the world because of you.

  8. So sorry to hear about what happened. You have inspired me to grow beautiful things in my yard. Please know you have influenced many, many people.

    This person, your landlord, does not deserve your garden or you as a tenant.

  9. oh no…i’m so sorry Gayla. gah–what a guy to not even own up to it.

    But keep on dreaming and seeing the beauty in your acts and in the gardens you create.

  10. Gayla,

    Please remember that along with all of the crappy things this world offers, there are the bright and beautiful spots too. Through this site and your book you have spread your dreams farther than you know. My small patio is alive with beauty thanks to your inspiration.

    Dog poo happens, but at the same time there are lush gardens blooming in other parts of the world because of you and your dreams.

    I’m so sorry about your garden. Please stay strong.

    And THANKS for all that you have given me personally.

  11. Just thinking out loud… Is there any way to bill him for the damaged plants? Or would that just start a war that you don’t want to get involved in? My main reason for suggesting that you charge him for the damage is that if he sees the monetary value of the plants he might (let me dream!) take better care of the garden in the future.

  12. “There are beautiful new gardens and bright happy hearts all over the world because of you.”

    Well said, elisabeth. And so true.

  13. Gayla, Reading this broke my heart a little bit too. I am so sorry that you are going through this. Most people I know do not understand the sincere love that gardeners have for their plants. I personally take it hard when something I love dies at my hand or at someone else’s hand (and in this case your crappy landlord). I loved that you wrote about this so honestly. I especially loved when you said this:

    When a gardener nurtures a garden, they nurture themselves. I know this is a big part of why I have such a strong need to grow things and create. When I take time to create something I turn all of the hurt, loss, and pain I feel inside for having not been nurtured when I should have and I make something of it.

    Thank you for your site, your writing and most of all your inspiration!

  14. I’m sorry for your beautiful garden, but I hope you’re able to sum up the strength to try again.

    I’m a criminal defense attorney–so I know a little bit about struggling against the meaness in the world–and on my wall I have a snippet of a Martin Luther King, Jr. quote which basically says, even if I knew the world was going to hell tommorow “I would still plant my apple tree.”

    Even if you think what you’re doing is useless in the end, what matters is the attempt. You’re trying to do good, trying to make the world a better, more beautiful place. And even if it doesn’t always work out perfectly, that is a very good thing.

  15. It’s interesting that the so-called vandals are the ones who are actually respectful of your hard work and the landlord who should really be incredibly grateful for your garden (and I think he should give you a discount on rent for his mistake) is the one who really vandalizes it. That sucks that he keeps ruining your garden, but I would encourage you to keep trying to make it a beautiful, green space. However, if you feel like it’s a lost cause maybe you should sell the plants or at least stop buying plants for it and opt for planting seeds instead. That way the financial impact will be less if plants get destroyed. Unfortunately, it won’t affect the emotional impact of having your time and energy amount to a ruined garden. You do fantastic work, so try not to let his stupid mistakes get you down!

  16. Don’t give up Gayla!

    Obviously not everyone understands or appreciates your hard work and devotion, and this landlord definitely doesn’t get it. You have every right to be devastated. As if the garbage, pee and dog poop aren’t enough!

    If you can feel as sad as you are now, stare it in the eyes, survive it, and then go back to re-plant, there’s no stumbling drunk or idiot contractor who can hurt you any worse in future.

    Whatever you decide, you’ve already shown the world what a wonderful and resilient person you are. Don’t let the world get you down for too long. :)

  17. I’m so sorry for your loss. I can feel that this is like losing a loved one for you. I know you’re still processing, but maybe it’s time to consider doing something where you know your efforts are appreciated and not destroyed. Growing veggies for a food bank? Volunteering with a charitable organization? There’s no point in going through the pain of this loss over and over again. I’m new here and I don’t know all the history. I just am feeling your agony and it’s not right.

  18. My husband once said a very wise thing to me after I had a similar experience with some dirtbag- he said, “You know he isn’t sitting home right now thinking of you.”

    Karma. Karma will get your landlord and everyone else who uses their time on earth for the wrong reasons. At the end of your life when all you can say is, “I earned money in real estate,” and not, “I inspired others to do the right thing,” or “I had many good friends,”……

    So please don’t get sucked into his negative energy. Life moves forward not backward.

  19. What kind of idiot painter doesn’t recognize a garden or that he’s damaging plants? Send him the bill for your plants!

    I share your frustration Gayla- I have been living in my apartment for six years and I’ve created a couple gardens and built decks and other structures to hold more plants in every possible inch. Last summer the main floor store front was rented to a woman who is making my life miserable. Since her store ( food related) opened last month I have been told I have to get rid of my compost bin because it attracts rats- funny there were no rats before she started bringing food in. I also am no longer allowed to use the outside space behind our property to store anything anymore so all my potting supplies, hose, etc are supposed to be kept inside. She had rat traps and poison installed everywhere and didn’t bother to mention it to me- just threw it in my gardens and it’s easily accessible by the many cats in the area including mine. I’m waiting for her to demand I remove my clothesline because birds sit on it and dump on her car. And so many other stupid things I could go on … The most annoying part is I try to have discussions with her politely and offer to make compromises and even to assist her when I can and she pays me back by calling the landlord about everything! He responds by calling me on the phone and demanding I change everything I’ve worked so hard to create in what little space I have. He doesn’t seem to recognize that I’ve been caring for this property in many ways for years longer than he’s owned this building. He only cares that commercial rent is higher than what we pay. My only hope is that her business fails and she moves out which is a horrible thing to wish for.

    Sorry for my rant but you touched a nerve with yours. Keep dreaming, keep fighting! (And if you tell us where your garden is maybe we can sneak some new plants in to replace what you’ve lost.)

  20. Oh, I’m so, so sorry to hear about the garden!

    I know it won’t bring the garden back or heal any wounds, and you probably realize it anyway, but the hard work you put into that garden and your others HAS been appreciated by all of us out here in the wider world. It wasn’t a wasted effort, and it’s inspired and brought joy to so many of us reading from far away!

  21. I really feel for you, Gayla. I have yet to find a landlord who really cares about plants (or even accepts that his/her tenants may really care about plants). Our landlord has never paid any attention to the “flower” beds – in that nothing was ever planted there, except for some wild peas which I tried to train one year and gave up on and hacked to pieces this year.

    To replace the peas I sowed cottage garden flowers – should have been several thousand seeds. Now the landlord has suddenly decided these are weeds and need to be hoed, and no amount of “but these are flowers, I sowed them to make YOUR house look pretty!” will work. No doubt if I didn’t bother, he wouldn’t hoe…

    It is all so frustrating, and disheartening. Because it takes time to make it look good, but no time at all to undo all the hard work.

  22. Gayla – it sounds to me as though this happened when you were at a low ebb. I’m sure that at another time you would have bounced back from the disappointment and frustration of this incident straight away. I think CallieK’s idea of billing the painter for replacement plants is brilliant. Even if he doesn’t pay up he might think twice about damaging someone’s plants again. Have you got a notice on the wall that gives the web address of your blog so that passers-by can realise that those flowers don’t get there by magic?

  23. Gayla,
    Your story made me very sad, and also indignant for you. Please know that you and the accounts of your gardens have touched me in a very real way. You inspired me to keep trying even though I felt that all I would ever have is a black thumb. Your book helped me to see that I could make beauty in even the tiniest of spaces.

    What your landlord did was terrible and completely uncalled for, but please don’t give up. Don’t let one stupid person ruin the joy you take in creating something so beautiful out of nothing. It was unplanned, but try to look at this situation like a rebirth of your space; you can make it even more wonderous than it was before.

    We believe in you!

  24. Another Jen weighing in…

    In addition to hurting you personally, I see this as part of a bigger problem.
    I work as a gardener too, and the number of times I have actually been working at a clients’ property at the same time that a window washing or renovation crew (I work for clients with waaaaay more money than me- sorry that this example doesn’t quite fit with all your countless volunteer hours and plants bought with your own money…) anyway, point is, while I am there working on making things look good, I see people trampling plants, squishing things with ladders, generally undoing all my work while we’re both on the clock- blah.
    If I were to start throwing lumps of soil at their windows or spraying their power tools with the hose, I’m sure they would pay some attention… why do some people not think twice about stomping all over a garden?

    And most important today, why do they think it’s ok to stomp all over Your garden and not apologise? BOOOOOO your landlord. I hope he sees what you have written about this. I hope he gets his karma comeuppance, just like the person above says. And I hope you feel better about things soon, because you’ve been a huge inspriation to me while I learn about gardening, and I think you deserve to feel the awesomeness vs the ingratitude and stupidity.

  25. He’s a rat.

    I had a neighbor who was intermitently impossible. Even after she finally built a fence bewteen our properties (her sons, tired of hearing how awful I was, suggested it) she complained because my beans and bean-poles could be seen over it. Sheesh.

    I finally realized that it was about control. I couldn’t satisfy her, because if she’d stopped complaining, she would have been relinquishiing control. To stop would have meant she’d have to stop trying to change me and the rest of the world. (I wasn’t the only thing she complained about.) She was very old, increasingly incapacitated, and increasingly embattled. I think she was desperately trying to reassert control in a world in which she had very little.

    I don’t know your landlord, but it occurs to me that you’ve achieved a degree of success that he probably never will. Wrecking your garden is a way of asserting some control over what you do, how you spend your time. It’s also a way to remind you who owns the land, who’s in charge. It may be your garden, but he can walk on it. Is that too crazy?

    I wish you could move–without any of the fuss and bother of moving–to someplace where you’d be not just left alone, but appreciated.


  26. Gayla, I’m truly sorry for the damage done to you and your garden. Know body will ever understand how you feel or how much the garden ment to you. To create and nurture every plant like a child means alot to someone who has had to struggle.
    I see alot of myself in you. I’ve can’t stop planting and creating my own perfect world. People think I’m crazy. When I garden I excape from the coldness of the world, but in the same since I love to help people with their gardening and creating a refuge with them.
    Anyway’s either way it hurt’s, because that garden is you. It show who you are and even know you’r tired of starting over, I know you will. You can’t stop. It’s who you are


  27. It’s absolutely amazing to me that you keep going with your garden, with your words, in the face of things like this. That you do, that you have, got me going on my own garden — and got me to work on my own crappy apartment “yard” and totally dense landlord, too. I’m so sorry about your street garden, Gayla, but I think you’re entitled to a corner of mine.

    This was a beautifully written entry, by the way.

  28. I’m so sorry about your garden. You have every right to feel as you do, to feel devastated when your creation is destroyed, when something that you’ve nurtured is violated.

    You demonstrate the difference between stewardship and ownership.

  29. After reading all of these comments, I can’t believe no one commented that maybe you should tell the guy how you feel. Not tell him you want him to pay for the plante, or tht is is only his “help” that is ruining your space, but tell him how hurt you are, and only YOUR feelings.

    Granted he may/probably will do nothing with these words he hears, but 2 things will happen:

  30. After reading all of these comments, I can’t believe no one commented that maybe you should tell the guy how you feel. Not tell him you want him to pay for the plante, or tht is is only his “help” that is ruining your space, but tell him how hurt you are, and only YOUR feelings.

    Granted he may/probably will do nothing with these words he hears, but 2 things will happen:

  31. continued ( I hit enter accidentally)
    1. You will feel better because you told him how YOU feel (using I stetements)
    2. He will have heard how you feel.

    There is nothing better than just getting your feelings out there on the table.

  32. I second the previously mentioned points:
    1. Your hard work has made my rental garden beautiful. I never would have pursued gardening the little street side plot in front of my rental if it weren’t for the pictures in your blog. And my landlord, bless him, loves it. So does my neighborhood. (Even if they get confused and let their dogs poop in it.) All is not lost, even if your plants didn’t make it.
    2. Get yourself out of a position where he can hurt you. Is there a, hopefully an nice plot, across the street? Someone else’s landlord would be just as likely to let you tend their space as your own landlord. After all they would only gain from it. Plus, anyone with a view from across the street probably has a sympathetic point of view. After all, they are the one’s looking at it. You can’t keep inspiring us all if you are bummed out. Put yourself first and screw that guy. The world needs you happy!

  33. What a nasty thing to have happen, and what a lame explanation. I can understand your heartache. And I’m sorry. But you certainly tend this garden for all the right reasons and I’m sure it gives pleasure to people you’ve never even met. Perhaps that is reason enough to continue? Good luck and kudos to you for being so generous with your time and resources.

  34. I am so sorry about your garden. As a landlord myself I would love for my tenants to care about the flower beds we provide them but they are always in horrible shape at the end of the rental term.

    Have you considered abandoning this garden and starting somewhere new? I’m not sure about the logistics where you live but there has to be another place close by where the owners would appreciate your desire to create and nurture a garden. It just seems that life is far too short to keep tossing your time and heart down this black hole when there are still good people in this world who would appreciate your work.

  35. I teared up hearing your story. I feel for you and your situation and I would feel the same way. I don’t understand people and what they are thinking sometimes. You can get really caught up in trying to figure them out. All you can do is keep doing what you are doing. I’m sure your garden has touched more people than you can ever imagine. It has touched me and I haven’t even seen it. Keep doin’ what your doin’ and don’t let some weird-o ruin it for you.

  36. I am so, so sorry, Gayla. Please don’t let this sad, ignorant, mean creature crush your spirit.

    The world is a better place because of you. Not just the gardening world. The world in general. You care, you share, you inspire.

    I know this year I’ve put more effort into our condominium’s common property garden because of your example. I’ve learned I don’t need to own something to enjoy it.

    I don’t know if any of these words help…yet…but please know they are true and from the heart.

  37. i don’t know what to say. it seems like it’s all been said, and yet, there is nothing to say that will change the situation.

    probably talking to the landlord is a good idea. he didn’t even have the guts to talk to you in person!

  38. Gayla

    Wow – look at the responses … the best suggestion I can think of now that all is said and done … print this all out and leave it as your landlord did – in his mailslot! You aren’t alone. You are in the right. You can only feel proud. Continue what you are doing because the joy you have gotten & given far surpasses any of this and this serves to remind us all some of the many reasons why we do it. These are ‘teachable moments’ …

    You Go Grow Girl!!!

  39. Your words describe my thoughts exactly. I understand how you put your whole heart into everything you do, its the only way to live. Too many people invest things like time or money and believe that those are the most important factors in feeling accomplishment. But feeling a true attachment to the things you are doing gives a greater sense of accomplishment. I agree with everything you said, you are right to feel everything you feel. YOu will recover and your next garden will flouish with life beacause of the love you invest in it.

  40. Gayla,

    I am so sorry about your garden, and especially that it seems like others just don’t ‘get it’.

    I will say your words surround opening ourselves up, and the emotional connection to creating is exactly what I needed to read today.

    Thank you!

  41. Gayla,

    I am so sorry about your garden, and especially that it seems like others just don’t ‘get it’.

    I will say your words surrounding opening ourselves up, and the emotional connection to creating is exactly what I needed to read today.

    Thank you!

  42. I know of a lot of potters who go through weird cathartic periods and throw all of their creations/pots/sculpture on the concrete to break them. What about tilling up the whole garden and rolling around in the dirt and having a good cry? (maybe in the middle of the night on a warm, rainy evening?)

    I offer this as an alternative to billing your landlord, because I see that as just stirring up more bad emotions from you. Although it would be nice if he would fork some money into fixing things.

  43. Gayla – chiming in again here. I wandered around my garden last night and I realized how much I take for granted. I have a nice, big residential lot with a nice picket fence to protect it. When I want to pot plants, I have plenty of room to work. But there’s so much more I can do. When I think about all your beautiful efforts in tiny, challenging areas, I feel just a little ashamed. Please keep doing what you’re doing. You are an amazing person and you will bounce back from this.

  44. Gayla — I read your website all the time, as I have just started to learn the joy of gardening. My enthusiasm is always multiplied by reading your posts and viewing your lovely plant portraits. I was excited to see your book in a Borders the other day, actually. I’ve never posted, but I wanted to express my regret about the current state of your front garden — people often don’t think about the effects of their actions. All we can do is adjust our own. I hope you restart your garden, but maybe leaving it dead for a while might be an idea — peg a sign in the ground simply explaining why it’s dead and why you are hesitant to rejuvenate it. Perhaps, after reading it, people will appreciate it more — especially your landlord.

    Thank you for all your hard work, your beautiful photography, your fantastic ideas and personal strength. You’re an eloquent inspiration to anyone who has ever taken a moment to appreciate a new bud or the smell of spring foliage coming to life.

  45. Hey Gayla,

    I saw the mural this morning. I thought you had had it done. No? Wow.

    So my guess is, that the landlord had planned the mural long before the wall was painted blue a few weeks ago… and even earlier than that if the “artist” had given him design proposals and layouts. …yet he said nothing to you – didn’t consult you, and just went ahead with his plans. Powertrip. All he was doing was showing you that he OWNS the place… Soooooo…

    Show him that he doesn’t own you. Keep gardening like nothing happened. Be polite and cheerful. The landlord will hate you for it… and THAT just might bring a smile to your face. You win. The loser loses.


    P.S. I nurtured an 11 year relationship with a wonderful woman just like I would a garden… both of us had control-freak and hostile exes. ….She and I and our 7 kids were happy… When she planted awful people into our lives, I weeded them out like invasive plants– kind of like milkweed, I think. We had a beautiful garden/family, but it was always hard work to maintain it as she loved to plant milkweed. But then both her parents died, and she grew weak like a plant without water. Her parasite of an ex-husband saw his chance to return to claim her inheritance of millions and he systematically removed her from our garden using their 3 children as the garden hoes and shovels. Our garden was still there, but she had let the ex plant her and her children over a tall fence. So… what do I do? I keep loving her albeit from afar, knowing she didn’t know she was letting the control-freak take over her life, again. I keep smiling, both for myself and others. And, I keep gardening (both literally and figuratively)… because it can be calming and worthwhile, if you let it be. …see Gayla, I try to practice what I preach. So far, so good.
    P.P.S. This too shall pass.

  46. Hi Gayla,

    I just wanted to say that it was your book, “You Grow Girl,” that first inspired me to try out gardening. Before “Grow,” I never imagined that a city-loving gal like myself would have taken such a liking to dirt, or wielded a trowel with such fervour. I never would have connected with the urban agricultural movement in Toronto, or been pushed to think about food in ways that extend beyond opening the refrigerator. What happened to your garden was deeply wrong. But please never doubt how strongly your wonderful, original creative spirit has inspired and truly helped others. My rooftop and community garden plots are helping to feed me and my two elderly parents, as well as providing a healing oasis for a wide circle of people, some of whom I’ve never met.

    To quote Ralph Waldo Emerson:

    “To laugh often and much;
    To win the respect of intelligent people
    and the affection of children;
    To leave the world a better place;
    To know that even one life has breathed easier
    because you have lived…
    This is to have succeeded.”

    You grow, girl!

  47. Sorry, two more things…

    If you don’t like the mural. Secretly have someone paint over it late one night.

    2. My offer to you for a custom art-fence or cover-the-mural-trellis (designed by you) still stands. –Avaialble recycled wood dimensions are 1x1x36inches. …Send me the vector file, to scale.


  48. Holy shit, that is rough. I can understand wanting to just destroy the whole thing and be done with it, but that would eat away at you even more to see that empty spot everyday. You can’t change lame people. But you can keep making the world beautiful by going back to the destroyed plot and making it beautiful again.

    I totally bawled reading that second to the last paragraph. We should be thankful that we have the capacity to feel so much in our lives. That emotion and sensitivity can also suck when we get burned. Despite that, I still prefer to feel every ounce of emotion than go through life in a dishonest state of mind, i.e. landlord jackass.

  49. Gayla I am so sorry about your garden. I agree with Elisabeth completely on what she had to say. I hope you find peace in knowing that you have inspired so many of us. But please, do not stop growing . . . you are so much more bigger than you landlord will ever be. Don’t give up.

  50. Wow, I think everything’s already been said (we all love and appreciate you, Gayla!) but I wanted to chime in too. Don’t lose hope! There must be a way to work this all out.

  51. Oh Gayla.. I’m sorry. People can be so disrespectful. You are so strong for continuing on with this garden after all it’s been through… I gave up on my front garden beds after having my plants stolen over and over again. I will never understand why people think they can just trod all over, steal, or do what they want with plants. Don’t they understand that people put their heart and soul into this?

    *big hugs*

  52. I’m so sorry to hear about this Gayla. Ugh, some people can be so insensitive and inconsiderate. I really admire your persistence to not let others dampen your spirits. But from all this, it is great to see how supportive members of the website can be. (:

  53. Oh, Gayla, Gayla…

    I’ll add my voice to the eloquent chorus of those offering support and reminding you what an inspiration you are. You can come out east and go guerilla on my property anytime. Just bring bug dope.

  54. Oh, Gayla…

    I’ll add my voice to the eloquent chorus of those offering support and reminding you what an inspiration you are. You can come out east and go guerilla on my property anytime. Just bring bug dope.

  55. Yuck. I’m so sorry to hear about this. You have inspired me too. Keep growing girl…it’s what you do best!!!

  56. Your pain is understandable in the circumstances – you have suffered the loss of something that you love intently, simply because of the careless disregard by another. You are right to feel hurt and flattened by this disregard of your efforts, but don’t let it defeat you! The owner obviously has no concept of the work, cost and love that goes into creating a garden, but he also doesn’t understand the vast pleasure and peace-of-mind that it can bring, and for that you should feel sorry for him!
    You should look after yourself as you would for any other major loss in you life (eg job, friend, pet) and don’t move on until you are ready!
    Hopefully writing this blog helped you to understand and feel your emotions, which is a major part of the process to recover from a loss.
    Allow yourself time!

  57. This made me burst into tears. I’ve been reading this site for about a year and have continually been inspired by your approach to gardening–viewing it not as a hobby, but as a substantive creative and political act. It makes me wonder what kind of a sad world we live in where the simple act of creating something meaningful and beautiful is so casually trampled on.

    I am really sorry to hear about your loss. As others have expressed more eloquently than I have, give yourself time. Stay strong!

    In solidarity!

  58. I wish I could come to have convinced him to wait until winter or fall to hire a mural artist. I would have offered to do it myself for free. Then the plants wouldnt be so damaged.

    once we had our siding replaced and the workmen trampled my herb garden. I thought this stuff was dead. It looked like they went out of their way to crush stuff into dust into the ground. But the next year, the mugwort that they had mutilated until you couldnt even see it sticking out of the ground? It came back, its like every fragment sprouted roots and it all came back and then some.

    Plants are amazingly resilient. Sometimes we forget, because they work in a different world of time than we do.

  59. Don’t give up on your garden, Gayla.My 85 year old mommie picks up dog poop from her precious garden everyday. She tenderly replants what gets knocked over by the loose dogs that run her neighborhood.We call each other and talk about our plants and the joy our gardens give us.It’s not a hobby to us it’s our life. Don’t ever give up on your plants.

  60. Gayla,
    This is my first visit to your website. A friend gave me your book _You Grow Girl_ and I love it!
    It has inspired me to grow an awesome garden in my brand-new home in Kentucky.

    I am very sorry to hear about your garden. It makes me very angry to hear what happened. My only advice is to hang in there and know (like I’ve read so many times in the comments above) that you have been an inspiration to me.

    Hang in there,

  61. Sorry, but I’m a bit retaliatory myself… grow something big that covers the mural? I know it’s not helpful. But I understand. I grew lunaria for the the beautiful translucent seed pods. I wanted to varnish them and make a wind chime. They take two years to bloom from seed, they bloomed this year and were heavy laden with their coins. Someone took the tops off of 7 of the ten plants for their own selfishness.

    In the end, I guess the healthiest thing is to begin again.


  62. Wow … just when I think the world sucks and there is no one who could possibly understand me … I stumble across this site.

    I’m sorry to hear what happened to your garden … but your thoughts and feelings really helped me to see that I am not the only one who feels that way ..

    “… I can’t imagine doing it with only half or a quarter of myself invested. And that’s the kind of world I like to imagine. One where we can all feel safe enough to put our hearts into the things we care about without fear of having it broken. And one where we are all valued and can in turn have a shared sense of entitlement to shaping the world into something we can feel good about…”

    I couldn’t have put this any better myself …


  63. I’ve been thinking about what happened to you ever since I read your post yesterday. I’m really sorry that happened to you. I also have put countless dollars and hours into my garden and would be angry and hurt if it were continually desecrated and damaged.

    I would have to say that your landlord sounds like a small, misguided, foolish man who may need to be taught how to treat others and their property (after all, the plants are YOUR property, even if the land they are on is not). I am encouraged that he wished to paint a mural, regardless of the motive; he could have chosen simply to cover the wall with a single color or left it blank instead. I think those who do not garden think there is nothing to it–after all, we pass weeds everywhere every day, and they grow and flourish without any care, and we treat them harshly. Your landlord may need to be taught your perspective by way of some lesson close to home. For example, the store he has is something that he has put his time, effort, and money into, and regardless of the fact that he operates it to make money, if it were trashed or vandalized, I am quite sure that he would feel taken advantage of as you do. So maybe he should be told this. Sharing some of your bounty with him may make him aware that real effort goes into it, too. I know the last thing you probably feel like doing is being generous with him, but if he is merely careless and self-interested, you in your infinite wisdom can show him the way to treat you.

    Enough of my pontificating. Stay strong and hang in there.

    p.s. my neighbor sprinkles cayenne pepper on the front of her property to deter dogs (and it kept the squirrels from digging up my bulbs)! Too bad it won’t do anything for humans…

  64. I am very sorry for the damage done to your garden…and to your heart, Gayla. How can we not put our hearts into the green things we grow–we’re gardeners…not landscapers? Don’t give up. There will always be those who, for whatever reason, are too small to see the value of someone else’s hard work & dedication and who will seem to go out of their way to tear it down. But, never doubt that there will also be those people who will have a little bit better of a day because they happened to walk by your city garden and were able to find joy and solace in the beauty of a little bit of nature in a concrete world.

  65. Oh, Gayla- my heart goes out to you. I know what that must feel like; urban gardening can seem a kind of guerrilla effort at times, can’t it?

    Our gardens are like physical extensions of our best, most hopeful selves… ‘tendrils sent out into a sharp-edged world. Of c-o-urse you are feeling crushed, hon.

    But as so many of your readers have said before me: your site, this work, continue to inspire green beauty and growth all over the country…

    I invite you to sit for a moment and send your hurt heart and mind down along that resolute, little subterranean rhizome connecting you to all the rest of us empathizing green-girls out here!

    Let your fool of a landlord and his limitations go. You will find other, better spaces to grow your creative efforts; if the man chooses to remain firmly rooted and obstinate in his own paved-over, mental parking-lot hell, let that be his cross to bear.

    Both you- and your rambunctious, feisty plantlets, will surely come up again!

  66. hiya-so i think your garden’s possibly been an unexpected pleasant surprise to your landlord-Not a central bonus in his life-but something he probably would like to encourage??Surely you’re a valuable tenant-you’re worth keeping!!!-or does he really not care about it(does that include you/your ideas?) at all? he didn’t actually wreck garden himself tho’!!! THAT MURAL PAINTER did it! -would you be able to incorporate the mural design with new garden design-ie; the designs follow a common theme-with your landlord’s (financial/ideas input)backing? Too much work now that you are so gutted? With my landlords’ permission I used to be able to pay for house maintenance/repairs etc. myself out of my monthly rent where I’d take responsibility for arranging the jobs got done, I’d keep the receipts… can something like that work?

  67. I am so sorry. It’s hard to keep trying to create beauty when others seem so intent on destroying it, but please don’t give up.

  68. I feel your pain! It’s time to invest in a cheap metal fence (Lowes) to deter the bar patrons. And maybe tell the landlord that if he will pay for the paint you can find some other people to paint over the grafitti.Good luck in a few weeks you will hear the birdies sing and Cheer UP!

  69. Isn’t your landlord ‘interfering with your enjoyment of the property’? In the rent contract, does it cover the space your garden is on?

    I wish the world is a better place. There is this park I really like that I haven’t gone to regularly for a long time because I’m sick of seeing it ruined. I keep picking up beer bottles but people keep leaving here. I can’t climb on the willow tree and have my secret space anymore because the lower limbs have been sawed off, and I’m older anyways. To top it off, today discover a hole in it that looks like it was bore by bugs. I took pictures of it, but I’m afraid of calling city because it’s the last Willow left and I don’t want it cut down (I think they do tend to take the easy way out) if there were some other way to treat it.

  70. Perhaps a waist high chickenwire fence? Enough to keep the dogs out but still let the light in? Perhaps a secondary retractable chicken wire fence you can pull out at night, to deter the drunks. …and plant rose bushes, beautiful and thorny, both is why I love them. Try setting up some poles and hang some even more deliciously thorny bouganvilla.

    A fence doesn’t have to be a forbidding expensive picket fence. A chickenwire is much cheaper, and it can look absolutely lovely after you train all manners of things onto it. I recommend you start with Bird Vetch. It’s a hardy flower always growing onto fences and bushes. I love picking those purple finger length flowers in the park, to go with red clovers and white daisies and yellow Birdfoot Trefoil. The park used to have those in plenty until the mowing schedule increased, in spite of the poor city budget, and most of them stopped growing back.

    There is a plaza near Bridlewood Mall, with beds of pink roses, the Middle Eastern variety with simpler flowers that are lovely for their yellow centres. It look so good with purple bird vetch mixed in it. First bird vetch, then thorny roses.

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