I consider this part one – just writing about some changes since last year and winter, what’s showing up on its own, and selective images. In the future I’d like to include video/more full photo documentation and some talk about what I’d like to see, the houseplants, balcony, and more about the seeds and starts I’ve worked so hard on. There were a lot of changes implemented and a few proposed since this prompt was posted – new beds were created, transplants abound, and we’ve worked very hard on the grass and compost. There’s much to talk about, this is just a start.
I also want to note that I call my garden the RIOT GRRRDEN, which is part tongue-in-cheek and part truth. I listen to riot grrrl music almost exclusively as I work because it gets me moving, digging harder in the dirt, lifting heavy baskets, dancing and singing, whatever I’m doing I do it a bit better. It’s also because I see urban gardening as a bit of every day revolution – taking old notions of femininity into a younger, DIY/self-sustaining front while relieving some reliance on stores.
I set this prompt aside because when it came out a month ago there was very little going on in the garden itself, aside from a giant to do list with lots of clearing work, overflowing dormant compost, and hundreds of fallen leaves. The riot grrrden was simply trays of seeds and tiny starts covering any safe space inside my home, succulents in all available window space, and a handful of compacted soil-filled planters outside. I was excited in the potential the new yard had and spent the last two months cleaning it up after a good amount of neglect on the old tenants’ part. Every week I was finding new plants and seeing things fill in. Rather than completely clear out the old beds and start fresh with my own seeds I left it – weeds and all – to see what would come through on its own. I’m glad I did.
The perennials are in full swing now and what was once some green leaves, old twiggy vines, and a few uncertain buds now have become a nearly full garden of free flowers and edibles. I thought the large flower beds would be full sun but as the trees filled with leaves it became full shade. A thin, woodchip covered patch of dirt next to the garage became a great place to find much needed full morning sun. The two unruly shrubs in the front yard were trimmed back to reveal new midday beds. The long, narrow bed along the fence went from herb speckled and vine riddled to blooming and bustling. I found tulips, giant deep purple alliums, sage, rosemary (not considered winter hardy here but growing heavily as a low shrub), catnip, mint, strawberries, raspberries, roses, peonies, lily of the valley, hostas, purple milkweed, creeping charlie, multiple types of ivy, almost transparent white columbine, and dainty wild violets. I can see there’s still a few more on the way.
For the first time I really have the space to plant flowers. I had been saving lots of exotic looking seed packs for this season, but with all the flash of a bold orange splash, black fist-sized hollyhocks, or spikes rising 4ft and up I’m still being drawn to the tiniest moments and the more naturalized beauty of the enduring perennials. I struggle with weeding, seeing the plants as deserving of being there, and all had ended up offering up beautiful flowers in exchange for the rent. The tiniest purple posies, elegant ghost-like bleeding hearts, a new favorite “weed” – variegated yellow archangel (and with such a lovely name). I even like dandelions, always have, and when most would pull them up at first sight I let them grow large with bold yellow pops in places where the clay soil is too hardened even for grass. They remind me of my youth, making bracelets and headbands at recess, and with edible greens it seems a shame to throw them out.
Last year I did very little gardening. I spent a lot of time on hundreds of seeds that were killed off from cold or mold. The spring started warm and suddenly turned freezing. What didn’t die in the yard was barely kept alive inside before growing leggy, moldy, and keeling over. I was going to start over with a midsummer garden after our honeymoon but we came back to a long draught and heat wave. People’s lawns were dying, some days reached 100 degrees, it just didn’t make sense to try again. Soon it was time to pack and get ready to move. Even though I did not plant what is coming through my new garden I can’t help but feel a little proud and as if my hard work then finally paid off this spring. Note: this final image was taken before planting grass seed and the blue tarp covers the raised veggie bed on cold, rainy nights. Many more tree leaves have filled in as well, making it more difficult to take an aerial shot from now on.