The Itinerant Urban Gardener

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IT BEGAN when my daughter moved into a Prospect Heights brownstone with a struggling pine tree in a barrel  out front. Each time I visited, I eyed the dead branches, wishing I could take a pruner to the thing and tidy it up. One day, I couldn’t stand it anymore. I told her, “I’m going to prune that pine. If your landlord says anything, tell him your mother is an itinerant urban gardener who goes around pruning people’s shrubs unbidden.”

While my East Hampton house is rented out, I’ve been getting my gardening jollies catching up on maintenance in the yards of my buildings in Boerum Hill and Cobble Hill. I ride around with a wooden box of garden tools in the back of my car — a hand rake, lopper, pruner, shovel, gloves, trash bags. When the urge to garden strikes, I’m ready. But I can see how this could get out of hand. Last week, I was walking along a Park Slope sidewalk and saw a lovely Japanese maple in a cobalt pot in someone’s front yard. It was full of weeds. My fingers itched to reach over the iron fence and pull them out, but I restrained myself. One recent morning, in Philadelphia to visit my son, I went out in my pajamas at 7AM and pulled 2-foot-tall weeds out of cracks in the sidewalk in front of his building … and the building next door.

Soon, I’ll have my half-acre to play with. In the meantime, I stealth-garden on other people’s property and enjoy what they’re doing with their window boxes, tree pits and containers. They’re doing a lot; it’s an encouraging sign of the times.

Below: March of the pots, a trend I’ve spotted this year for the first time. This is good news. In decades past, they might well have been stolen.

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Above: Window box explosion in Philadelphia’s Queen Village neighborhood. Below: Ivy and seasonal containers decorate a carriage house in Old Kensington.

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Below: Orange cosmos and white gaura have burst through the iron fence around this apartment building in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn, seeding themselves in cracks in the sidewalk.

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Below: A proudly tended Brooklyn tree pit with petunias and variegated hosta.

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About cara

I blog for fun here at casaCARA, and write about architecture, interiors, gardens and travel for many national magazines and websites. My recently published posts and articles can be found here: https://casacara.wordpress.com/recent-articles/
This entry was posted in BROOKLYN, GARDENS & GARDENING, PHILADELPHIA and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to The Itinerant Urban Gardener

  1. Karyn says:

    I have been stealth gardening on the grounds around my condo. I wait until late Monday mornings when all of the weekend or working people have left to do my sneak weeding and trimming. A fellow condo member, knowing of my mania, has gotten me permission from the “Board” to plant a curbside bed. I am in heaven!!!!

  2. Mary-Liz says:

    Great post!!! xxx

    Mary-Liz

    Mary-Liz Campbell Landscape Design http://www.marylizcampbell.com

  3. Love it!! Since you are in the city, how about a date? I miss you !

    Sent from my iPhone

    >

  4. cara says:

    Karyn, I believe it’s also called guerilla gardening… can take the form of throwing handfuls of wildflower seeds onto a vacant lot also. Congrats to you on becoming semi-official!

  5. Julia Mack says:

    Nice of you to care for plants belonging to others! If you are in Cobble Hill, contact me — my garden is lush and very, very green.

  6. The pajamas bit made me laugh out loud. I’m watering in mine every morning, complete with bed head. My neighbors just wave as they leave for work.

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