Sunday, July 4, 2010

Greening of the City

Like me, those who live in Manhattan yearn for greenery. Unlike me, groups of community-minded people have been doing something about this for years, in the form of community gardens.

Wherever there is a vacant lot, little armies of local volunteers shuffle in and before you know it, there are paved pathways, rock gardens, water features, herb patches, veggie gardens and flora in abundance. Abandoned lots likes this,

magically turn into these.

There is a lovely community group called Green Thumb that have been using theirs since 1978 to make this city a more inhabitable place. It is now the largest community group in the country and services over 500 "urban oases" throughout the city.

Each garden is unique, depending on where it is, who it's for and the residents who manage it. Most of the ones I have visited seem to be in the East Village and alot of them are dedicated to someone; the firemen who died in 9/11, a resident who fought hard to access the lot or the local children. They offer a green, calm haven in the midst of the Manhattan mayhem.

Probably the most famous garden is Liz Christy Garden down on the Bowery and Houston. It's not necessarily the most beautiful, but it is special enough to have caught the imagination of English garden designer, presenter and author, Monty Don. In fact, it made it onto his TV series, Around the World in 80 Gardens.

This was actually the first community garden in New York City, founded in 1973. Liz Christy was a "green guerilla" who used to plant vacant lots with "seed bombs" and saw great potential for this particular vacant space. After years of the inevitable fighting with the local council to keep this a preserved site, it really stands as the model for all the other community gardens that have followed. And it shows how you can make something really beautiful out of very little and give so much joy to so many others.

Images: mine, (liz christy: liz christy garden)

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