Thursday, April 29, 2010

It's a Thorny Situation

The update on the Basilica/Dunwoody Gardens at Loring Crossings is long past due. After more than a year of neighborhood activists, local business people and other members of the community attempting to work with the City to arrive at a solution to cleaning up this area, a representative from a City Councilperson's office hosted a meeting of all interested parties and progress seemed to be in the works. While individuals were not going to be allowed to participate legally with the clean-up, businesses or non-profit organizations that would sign a liability insurance waiver could make agreements with the City and organize teams to do the clean-up and install new landscapes.

Unfortunately, this happy plan is falling apart. Apparently, signing an insurance waiver is no longer sufficient. The participating businesses must purchase an encroachment permit and add a rider for $500,000 in coverage naming the City as additional insured. Further, it seems that at least one participating business was being 'encouraged' to hire the landscape architect firm of the City's choosing. The City also declines to pay for the water to maintain any installations. The water bills would be the responsibility of the participating businesses. So far there are no businesses or organizations that can afford or are willing to take on all of these requirements.

Some neighbors are concerned that, not only is a lot of trash being trapped in the brush, but that as it becomes tinder dry, it is a fire hazard. Bonfire anyone?

The immediate goal isn't to relandscape this area, but to clean out the dead roses. The challenge right now is debris removal. There will be alot, and there will be a cost to hauling it away responsibly. Coordination efforts to manage that are now in the works on a guerrilla level. We'll keep you posted.

In the meantime, Saturday May 1 is International Sunflower Guerrilla Gardening Day. At 10:00 am on that day you can go to this location and get some sunflower seeds to plant in support of gg efforts around the world to fight the filth with forks and flowers.

See you at the garden.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Marilyn Benjamin, my friend...who are you?

In profile statements it seems that Foreclosure Park was my first Guerrilla Garden. Not so. In the early years of occupying my former home, I caught sight of this sign. Barely visible from the street only steps away, the sign was covered by scrubby brush that had grown up around it.

It seemed not a good idea to leave a memorial garden untended and five or six years ago, I began cleaning it up and renovating it. It has been a slow process. Over time, I have cut down probably 20 volunteer scrub trees. These trees created too much shade for a Butterfly Garden to thrive. Gradually, with repeated applications of Round-Up concentrate, cutting, and burying stumps under mounds of black compost, and amending, amending, amending the soil, this year the garden promises to emerge from its chrysalis and qualify again as a true Butterfly Garden.

I hope Marilyn Benjamin would be pleased. I don't know who she is. I've made some minimal efforts to find out, but no luck. If anybody can fill me in, I would be ever so pleased.
BTW--Friend Horace (see Foreclosure Park 4.9.2010 post) lives across the street from this garden. I was pulling Creepy Charlie out of the bed last night and he came over to visit. He has grown more frail since I last saw him, but in general seems well.

Friday, April 9, 2010

The Ants Go Marching One by One...

...Hurrah! Hurrah! Somebody once told me that when the ants wake up and start making their ant hills it's ok to plant. I noticed ant hills, lots of them, in the cracks of the sidewalks around Foreclosure Park on April 5th. For any readers out in the wider world, we are talking Zone 4, Minneapolis here. The thought of planting in early April is crazy. It's been interesting observing the gardens waking up this year, though. Some of the minor bulbs came 2 weeks early. Others I haven't seen at all. Does that mean they aren't coming to the party, or they know how to read the calendar? The daffodils that are supposed to bloom the same time as the early iris look like they might be done before the irises get their buds. So much for that combination!

It's like that with the visitors to Foreclosure Park, too. Like the scilla and the daffodils, Musician Paul and Teacher Vant stopped to wish me a Happy Spring and said they'd been wondering when I was going to get to the cleaning. Like the crocus and muscari, I haven't seen my elder friends Horace and Nina yet. Joe came by though. He asked me to do the math to figure out how old he is, and was tickled I got it right. 81-years-old last November. I got to hear again the story of how he gave up his retirement lake home Up North to live out his days in town with his wife. They've been married 54 years, so he thought he'd stick it out with her. I promised to look for some bush cucumber plants for him. The other kind send vines across the driveway. That's apartment living for you.

In spite of the massive snow mounds dumped at Foreclosure Park last winter, just about all the perennials show promise of returning. The exception being my cherished Cary Grant Hybrid Tea Rose. Sigh. It wasn't really hardy to Zone 4, but I was hoping! I called the nursery that sells them and got a release for sale date, so I will be replacing it in May. Right on time, not too early, not too late. For sure.

Living the Lush Life

I've been told, and I know it's true, that sometimes I seem standoffish. Even when I am working in the garden. Appearances being different from reality--at least most of the time--it's more likely that I am lost in my thoughts, or I am focused on my work. Or that I am trying not to puke. As rewarding as guerilla gardening is, at times, especially during spring clean-up, it can be dirty, disgusting work.

On March 17, St. Patrick's Day, I went to clean up the Lush Life Garden. This space is mostly filled in with juniper shrubs and is located behind a bus stop at a key intersection in the neighborhood. Clean-up here doesn't mean clearing out leaf mulch and plant debris. It is plucking empty liquor bottles and paper beverage cups out of the juniper, sweeping up cigarette butts, and raking over vomit. Somebody else's, not mine. I discovered a used condom, but actually found some charm in that. It was bright kelly green, and being it was St. Patrick's Day and seemed a good fit (for the garden).

Once the filth-fighting was accomplished, the light began to return to my outlook. GG Sean came by to say hello. Sean works at the bar across the street and did the mulching and some planting at Lush Life. I showed him how the RadRazz Knockout Roses his brother planted survived the winter. He talked about wanting to rip out all the juniper and replace it with hosta. I almost sent him away. We noted bulb graves planted last fall are resurrecting tulips and daffodils. It won't be long. The days of lusty lushful living are upon us.

Monday, March 15, 2010

It' here!

GG Donovan maintains Vera's Garden on the Greenway in Minneapolis. If you are on Facebook, you can keep up with the work he is doing here by becoming a fan of the Facebook page: Vera's Garden. Donovan posted that tulips and crocuses were up, so I ventured over there last week to see.

Even though I've been aware of Vera's Garden for years, this was my first visit. Finding the tulips was a bit of a scavenger hunt...and delightfully, I found other growing things in my search. It is amazing how much is growing under the snow. How many living things there are, fresh and green (or sometimes red, in the case of some baby sedum!) just waiting and ready to go as soon as the snow melts away!

I determined the best place to look for the tulips would be along the Greenway wall, knowing it is warmer there. My first finds were the daylilies which are several inches tall already.

Just as I discovered the tulips, I hear a voice calling out to me..."They are not up yet..." This from a man jogging by, whose name I learned is Jim.

"Oh, but they are up!" I told him. Jim clambered up the slope through the mud and the poop and looking down at the ground let out a cheer "It's here!"

For lo, the winter is past! The snow is over and gone (well, maybe); the flowers appear on the earth; the time for spring has come.


Friday, February 19, 2010

Calling Guerilla Gardeners--Experienced and New!

At one time the City installed large, beautiful rugosa rose and daylily gardens across from the St. Mary's Basilica and in the green spaces along Loring Park Business strip going towards Loring Park. For those familiar with the City of Minneapolis, this area is truly one of the gateways to to Downtown. Near the Walker Art Museum, the Sculpture Garden, 3 historic and architecturally beautiful churches, and 2 schools of higher education, this is arguably one of the primary culture centers of the City if not the region.

Following a cut water line during a construction project and a diminished budget, the City stopped maintaining these gardens. Even though the plants here would typically be tough enough to withstand the climate and well-trafficked environment, without any care or attention provided for some period of time...well, look at the result. In addition to the dead plants and weeds depicted in the photos, what can't be seen is the litter captured by these dead gardens.

Two Minneapolis guerilla gardeners and green space advocates have been working with the City for the past eight months to gain cooperation and permission in cleaning up these gardens. It has been slow-going process. We have decided that this project is worthy enough that we will go ahead and start the clean-up this spring, even if the City isn't quite ready for us. It will be a big job and we need help!

We know the help is out there! Guerilla Gardeners, experienced and new, far and near--leave a comment letting us know how to contact you. We will notify you when we schedule dates to cut, pull and clean. Good times will be had!

Monday, February 15, 2010

MFD Station 11

One of my favorite guerrilla gardens is at MFD Station 11. There is a large container on the lawn there which was originally a handwash station like those found in grade schools in years past. I speculate that it came from the old Marcy Open School one block away at the time the old school was demolished...but that is just speculation.

When I first discovered this site it was being gardened by a neighbor lady named Florence. Gardening this container was Florence's way of giving back the the firemen from Station 11 who were the first responders when Florence's husband suffered a fatal heart attack at home.

This is such a fabulous site for public space gardening and I kept an eye on it for two years waiting for a time when it might become available for a new gardener. I took it over two seasons ago after I realized that Florence didn't come and one of the captains was plunking in marigolds around the edges to keep it looking somewhat presentable.

The one thing that makes this the ideal location is there is access to a water right on the side of the building! No lugging water jugs or hoses here.

I also love the size of it. I'm guessing it is 48" much room for creativity. The firemen and neighbors don't engage too much with this garden, but I know they do appreciate it. In this photo you can see a small flag at the front right side of the container. One of the firemen tucked it in there for the 4th of July a couple summers ago.

Containers are great for practicing design skills and for experimenting with the habits of annuals.

Last year my intention was to create a garden that was a conceptual representation of a fire. I was kinda-sorta successful...
Soon I will be working on a design for this space for this spring. It will be the first stop on my guerrilla circuit...gotta get there before anybody else beats me to it!